I'm feeling a bit under the weather. I caught a nasty flu and spent the weekend in bed tending a fever, runny nose and a sore throat. I'm still not feeling all that hot right now, but the bed is becoming a bit of a bore and staring at the ceiling, counting the cracks again and again is just not as interesting as coming down here, relaxing on my red comfy sofa and sharing another one of my favorite comfort foods with you.
As part of my Cooking School series, I am presenting the wonderful, the totally nourishing and the very comforting, Minestrone. There is certainly no fixed recipe for a minestrone soup and you are sure to find as many recipes for this vegetable soup as you will find Italian pizzerias. Each region in Italy specializes in it's own minestrone, adding their own ingredients and vegetables. As a matter of fact, the same cook will alternate his/her recipe depending on the vegetables in season.
Minestrone is one of the vital elements in Italian cuisine and is more commonly eaten throughout Italy than pasta itself. It basically is a soup, and depending on the person who makes it, can be thick or thin, have rice or pasta in it or be vegetarian or contain meat.
The minestrone comes from modest origins, being part of the so called cucina povera, which means poorer people's cuisine, it was a type of dish that was thrown together with whatever ingredients one had left over. It was filling and cheap. It is often said that no one actually goes out to buy the ingredients to specifically make a minestrone. A minestrone is often made using the leftovers from other dishes.
Whatever is said about this soup, some people love the minestrone, others need time to develop a taste for it and others - well they never find solace in a soup made from leftovers.
As for me - I make minestrone whenever I feel like it. Yes, I do go out to buy my ingredients specifically for a minestrone, but I will often add vegetables I already have in my fridge into it too. I also almost always top the minestrone with a large dollop of Pesto alla Genovese - freshly made of course. Because we all know by now that the stuff one buys in those jars simply does not taste as good as the homemade pesto, made with fresh basil leaves and high quality olive oil.
My minestrone here is made with potatoes, carrots, parsnips and tomatoes. I also added a bit of kale I had in the fridge. I like the wonderful flavor it gives the soup - sweet and full-bodied. I personally prefer pasta in my minestrone. Rice, in my opinion, just does not fit into this soup. However, my taste is always developing, evolving and discovering new things everyday. So, I could be experimenting one day in my kitchen and find the perfect match for rice in the minestrone.
One pot + many ingredients = one-dish dinner! That's you challenge this month. I am looking for innovative and creative one-dish meals. These can be casseroles, cooked in a crockpot, in a pressure cooker or in a baking dish. Whatever you are using you need to stick to the one cooking dish. So, come on over to February's mingle with your favorite One-Dish Dinners.
Deadline: March 10th, 2008
Don't forget to send me your links to your fresh, crispy, juicy winter produce. Eat Fresh is a seasonal event, which attempts to bring people to share their weekly fresh produce with each other. So, all you need to do is take a picture of your weekly fresh vegetables and fruit, post it on your blogs, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will get an invitation to join our growing Eat Fresh list.
Deadline: March 31st, 2008
Printable version of recipe here.
150 g dried borlotti beans - soaked overnight in 1 l unsalted water
3 potatoes - diced
4 carrots - diced
3 parsnips - diced
120 g kale - roughly chopped
2 onions - finely chopped
4 tomatoes - roughly chopped
50 g bacon - diced (optional)
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
Large handful flat leaved parsley - chopped
2 l vegetable stock
200 g pasta
Salt and pepper
Few shavings of Pecorino cheese to decorate
Pesto alla Genovese
Place the beans along with the soaking water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 1 hour, until soft. Alternatively, use your pressure cooker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
In a pan heat the oil and, if using, sauté the bacon until crispy. Add the onions and all the vegetables except for the tomatoes, kale and beans
Now add the tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf and pour in the vegetable stock. Bring to a rolling boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain the beans and then add to the soup. Cook for a further 15-20 minutes. Finally add the kale and allow to heat through for 3-4 minutes.
Cook the pasta in a separate pot according to the instructions on the packet. Drain, then add to the soup.
Serve on pre-warmed soup bowls with a sprinkling of grated Pecorino cheese and a large dollop of Pesto alla Genovese.
Tip: I prefer not to add the entire pasta to the soup. I normally place a handful of pasta in the plate then ladle the soup over it. This is basically because, if there are any leftovers to the soup, I hate having mushy over-cooked pasta in my soup when I re-heat it.
This is always a great pleasure to indulge into. Both Tom and Soeren also totally enjoy this soup. I make several variations to this soup, depending on the vegetables I get at the market or in my CSA box. Each time, I enjoy experimenting with flavors and aromas of different vegetables and herbs.
Hope you too enjoy this soothing soup too.
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