Monday, 9 November 2009

Minestrone d'Inverno

Soup is the most comforting of my winter staples. It is always warming, often frugal, and incredibly easy and quick to make. And it uses up all those weird and lesser known vegetables found in the best farm shops at this time of year - celeriac, rainbow chard, unusual members of the cabbage family, cavalo nero, curly kale - you know the ones I mean.

Summer minestrone might be filled with fresh borlotti beans, green beans, courgettes and fresh tomatoes. Winter minestrone makes the most of the few vegetables still growing or stored from summer; potatoes, tomatoes and carrots and takes its iron from winter greens like chard, spinach or cabbage. Although it is an Italian recipe by birth, I think it could hail from any country that finds itself relying on cabbage in the colder months!

Minestrone d'Inverno
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 sticks celery, chopped
(keep the celery leaves if there are any to throw in)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tins tomatoes
2 tins borlotti (or cannellini)beans
A parmesan cheese rind (if you have one)
1 head savoy cabbage (or other greens) chopped finely
1 litre stock or water
100g small pasta or spaghetti broken into little bits
1 bunch parsley
Salt and Pepper
freshly shaved parmesan to garnish

Heat the olive oil and saute the onions, carrots and celery and stir until softened. Add the tomatoes, beans and cheese rind - this gives the soup a beautiful slightly grainy texture. Cook for a further few minutes until combined. Add the shredded cabbage and pour in the water or stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the pasta, most of the parsley and season liberally. Simmer for a further 10 minutes until the pasta is cooked through.  You may have to add more water if the beans and pasta have absorbed too much but this is a soup so thick, its almost a vegetable stew. Serve with lots of crusty bread and top with a little chopped parsley and a generous helping of shaved parmesan.
This soup is also beautiful with a spoonful of pesto stirred in just as its served.

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