A Soup-er meal in a Bowl!
At the first sight of some cooler weather, my thoughts turned to soup. I love soup! There is something so comforting about being warmed up from the inside. This Minestrone is perfect for autumn. It is thick and rich, but the high vegetable content stops it from being too heavy. I usually make this soup on a Sunday morning for Sunday lunch when the weather is cooler, and what I love most, is it is such a big batch that lunch is set for the rest of the week! This soup comes with a warning. It is delicious. It is healthy and good for you. It will instantly make you feel better about the world in general. BUT – it takes time! And you can’t cheat. I have shared this recipe many times and people have commented “But mine doesn’t taste like yours!” Did you follow the cooking times? Ummm, no. So set aside a grey morning on a weekend and give it a go.
Start with a big cooking pot with a heavy base. Finely dice a large onion, some bacon, a couple of cloves of garlic and chop some sun dried tomatoes. The sundried tomatoes sort of melt into the soup over the cooking time, but the size of the dice will impact on the end result of your soup. I prefer a fine dice with everything the same size (yes, that compulsive need for order and uniformity strikes again) but it you are a random chopper, you can just rename this “Rustic Minestrone” – up to you.
Heat some oil (preferably from the sun dried tomatoes – it adds some extra flavour) over a medium heat and cook until some of the fat is oozing out of the bacon and the onion and garlic are transparent- about 5 minutes. (Note – if you are vegetarian or don’t like bacon (Holly) you of course can leave the bacon out).This would be the time to add some dried herbs if you like – I favour about a teaspoon of marjoram, but basil works well too.Add red wine and stir around to dislodge any good bits on the bottom. Now add in your liquids – stock, tin tomatoes, water and tomato juice or passata.
Again, this is where you can substitute the stock for the flavour of your choice. I prefer the richness of beef stock and find it has a fuller flavour than chicken or vegetable, but it is up to you. Also, my preference is usually to add tomato juice, but I had none in the pantry and did not want to venture out to the shops, so used passata instead. The beauty of this Minestrone is that every time you make it may be a little different depending on your mood and ingredients.
Bring your liquid mixture to the boil, reduce to simmer, pop on a lid and let it bubble away for 30 minutes. That’s right. Walk away. I used the soup cooking time to start watching a Netflix series without guilt – after all, I was cooking!
If you can watch telly and chop (and no, I will not make mention of a gender that may not be able to do two things at once), move on to preparing your vegies. The vegetables I choose are seasonal, and ones that keep their shape during the longer cooking times – carrots, cauliflower, pumpkin and potato.
I sometimes vary from this, but usually only if there is something that needs using up in the fridge. Parsnips are a great addition – I love them but they are met with reluctance by the family so I always seem to have one or two floating in the crisper. Zucchini is another option as well.
Place the finely diced vegetables into the soup and bring back to the simmer, cover and let bubble away for a further 30 minutes. ( Almost another episode – right? I was watching “The Returned” so the cooking time flew by)
Almost there! Drain and rinse a can of cannellini beans, chop up a handful of green beans and add in a 1/4 cup of small pasta. Now, when I say small pasta, I mean Stelline, which is what Nonna always used in soup. It is not often in supermarkets these days, but you can easily find in delis and specialty stores – worth seeking out.. You can put in those little alphabet pasta if you like or some ditalini – just don’t go too large or the pasta will overtake the soup.
Simmer away for another 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. It is usually a good idea to pause your viewing pleasure and stand by to give the soup a little stir at this stage to stop the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Throw in a handful of spinach leaves if you have some handy for an extra burst of green, and your soup is ready to serve. Top with some finely grated parmesan cheese, and you have a meal in a bowl. If you are wanting to be fancy, you can top with some gremolata or pesto, and always serve with some crusty bread for dunking. Enjoy!
- 2 tbs olive oil, or oil from sun dried tomatoes
- 1 brown onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
- 4-6 rashers bacon, diced
- 1 tsp marjoram
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 x 400g tin crushed tomatoes
- 1 x 800 ml tomato juice, (or 700ml tomato passsata + 100ml water extra)
- 500 ml beef stock
- 1 litre cold water
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 cup cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 cup pumpkin, diced
- 1 medium potato, diced
- 1 x 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup small pasta, such as Stelline
- Handful green beans and/or spinach leaves
- Heat a large pan with 2 tablespoons oil, and over a medium heat, cook the onion, bacon, garlic and sun dried tomatoes, until bacon releases some fat and the onion is translucent. Add in the marjoram.
- Add wine, tomato juice, undrained tin tomatoes, beef stock and water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low, pop on a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add carrots, pumpkin, cauliflower and potato and simmer for a further 30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through.
- Increase heat. Add pasta, cannellini beans and green beans and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure pasta does not stick to the base of the pot.
- Add spinach to wilt at the end if using.
- Serve with finely grated parmesan cheese and crusty bread