Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Minestrone

This is real comfort food - if you're feeling a little blue, a little under the weather, this restorative blend of fresh vegetables slowly simmered seems to be a curative to whatever ails you. I think one of the secrets of this soup is the sofrito - the initial sauté of the hard vegetables, onions, carrots and celery in a little oil and butter. Sweating them down releases their natural sugars and helps to deepen the flavour of the final product.

minestrone

Minestrone

1 red onion, diced
6 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
6 stalks cavolo nero, leaves removed from stalks and sliced, stalks diced (can be substituted for silver-beet)
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
250g shelled fresh borlotti beans
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3-4 handfuls small pasta shapes
chicken stock or water
salt and pepper

The quantities should really be taken as a guide only. When you are cutting the vegetables try and keep them to a uniform size. This just helps in ensuring they cook evenly.

In a large pot, drizzle in some oil and a knob of butter. When the butter is melted and beginning to sizzle add in the onions, celery and carrots and cook over a medium-low heat. You don't want them to colour too much, you just want them to soften and release their sugars. This can take 10 to 15 minutes. Add in the sliced cavolo nero stalks and cook for a few minutes.

Add the potatoes, turnips, tomato, peas and beans and cook for another few minutes.

Next, and this is something my mother would do, is to add a tablespoon of tomato paste. Cook this off for a few minutes. It adds a bit more depth to the flavour, especially when you making this in winter and the tomatoes aren't at their most flavoursome.

Add hot chicken stock or water until it covers all the vegetables by about an inch. Add the cavolo nero leaves and stir well and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Finally, add the pasta - you want to use a short pasta or a small soup pasta, the quantity really depends of the pasta size. Cook this for another 5 minutes and then turn the heat off and cover the pot. Make sure you still have stock above the level of the vegetable/pasta mix - if it's a little low just top up with extra stock/water.

I like to use the heat in the soup to cook the pasta - the pasta tends to just soak up the stock and gives it a nice creamy texture.

When you want to serve the soup, put it back on a simmer and bring it up to temperature - taste and season to your liking. I like to sprinkle in a tablespoon of grated parmesan into the soup pot itself while it's reheating.

minestrone

To serve, ladle it into deep bowls with an extra sprinkle of parmesan and a piece of crusty bread on the side.

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3 comments:

  1. Sounds just wonderful. I love Minestrone and there are so many different versions to try.

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  2. Your pics look divine. I've got the cavolo nero planted, just waiting for some cool weather!

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  3. Thanks Kalyn - with minestrone it's hard to even write a recipe as it really contains whatever you like - though I am quite found of minestrone genovese where they add a dollop of lovely pesto to the soup.

    Thanks Susan - I'm sure the plants will well reward you come autumn and winter.

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