Minestrone soup is a lot of things. It has a sharpness from the tomato, a herby fragrance from the oregano and parsley and a wholesome freshness brought in by the mountains of chunky vegetables.
I love minestrone soup (my girlfriend loves it even more) for a number of reasons. First of all, it is simple. It’s one of those meals where, once the prep work has been done, the rest is just coming back to the pot for a few stirs between episodes of whatever series you’re watching on Netflix.
Secondly, it is perfect for any season. The vegetables in this dish can be altered seasonally, so you can toss in some celeriac in the winter, a few sprouts and fennel in the autumn or lighten it up with some silverbeet in summer. Minestrone is one of those soups that doesn’t feel too heavy for summer but will still warm you up in the cold months of winter.
I should say that traditionally, Minestrone contains something like barlotti or cannellini beans, which make the soup a bit heftier and more filling. However, neither me nor my girlfriend are particularly keen on beans, so they are omitted here. Feel free to add them in if you are a bean lover though!
Another non-traditional element to this dish are the garlic chives. I will often use spring onions in Minestrone, but as I had some garlic chives in my fridge I decided to use them instead this time and they added a nice little undertone to the dish that I really liked.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hour
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large cans (800g each) crushed or diced tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 4-5 baby summer squash (the small yellow squash)
- 2 medium zucchinis
- 1 large red onion
- 200g green beans
- 3-4 large stalks celery
- 100g garlic chives (substitute regular chives or spring onions if you’d prefer)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
- 1 litre (4 cups) water (approx.)
- Handful fresh oregano (50g dried)
- 50g fresh (30g dried) thyme leaves
- 1 handful continental (flat-leaf) parsley
- 200g raw small pasta shells or elbows (you can use elbows or whatever you prefer)
- Shaved Parmesan (optional)
- Large pot
- Chopping board
- Wooden Spoon
Preparing the Vegetables
- Start by topping and tailing the beans and peeling the onions and garlic.
- Dice the onion and garlic and chop the beans into pieces about 2cm (1 inch) thick. If you want onion pieces through the Minestrone, leave it nice and large when you dice it, otherwise dice it finely.
- For the vegetables, you can cut them however you like, as long as they are all roughly the same size. I like to dice everything (about 3cm wide approx.) so it looks nice and uniform.
- The garlic chives and herbs should all be chopped finely. Remove the leaves from the thyme stalks carefully and toss out the woody bits.
Cooking the Minestrone
- Heat up a large pot with the olive oil in it.
- On a medium heat, saute the onions and garlic until the onions start to go translucent.
- Add the tomato paste, oregano and thyme to the pot and stir continuously for about a minute.
- Add all vegetables to the pot and stir thoroughly. Cook the vegetables for a few minutes. They don’t need to actually be cooked through, we’re just getting some extra flavour through them by frying them lightly.
- Add the canned tomatoes in one at a time. Half-fill both tins with water, getting the residual tomato juice off the sides, and pour the water into the pot. Add the vegetable stock and stir.
- Add 2 tsp of salt, the sugar and some pepper. Stir again and bring to the boil.
- Once the soup boils, turn the heat down low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so to ensure that nothing catches on the bottom of the pot.
- After the hour is up, add your chosen pasta in and turn the heat to medium. Check the pasta after about 8 minutes by simply tasting some. If it is cooked to your liking, remove the minestrone from the heat and serve.
- If you want Parmesan (it adds a richness that is very welcome!), put some on the top of the minestrone and let it melt slightly before serving.
In writing this recipe I put down that it serves four people — which is true — but really this recipe is always used as a way for me and my girlfriend to eat heaping bowls of Minestrone for two days in a row.
That’s the fantastic thing about soups: you can make a nice large pot of them and squirrel them away in the fridge or freezer to eat on a rainy (or lazy) day. One saucepan, a flame and about 10 minutes later and you have it all heated up and ready to snarf down all over again!
As I said before, you can alter this recipe to your hearts content. Don’t like zucchini? Use eggplant instead. Can’t find baby squash? Throw some pumpkin in. My girlfriend and I both enjoy spicy food, so I will often throw in some fresh chillies when I fry the onions off and it gives the soup a wonderful subtle heat that makes each mouthful egg you on to try the next.
If you decide to use fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones for this recipe, you will likely want to concasse them before you put them into the soup, as you need them to break down over the cooking process to form the tomato-y base that Minestrone is known for.
Try this dish any number of ways you want. Change the vegetables, the pasta, the cheese on top, just have fun experimenting with this simple and delightful soup!