There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making minestrone. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. I make a thick and luscious minestrone that’s packed with my favourite vegetables, and includes flavours that give the soup added depth and intensity. I’ll also let you in on a bonus flavour tip that’s makes all the difference.
You begin with the basic onion, carrot and celery (soffritto) base, then choose vegetables that are either your personal favourites or whatever happens to be in the fridge.
I use capsicum (red bell pepper) for its sweetness and vibrant colour, and eggplant (aubergine) for the creamy texture that develops as it soaks up the liquid while cooking. Here’s a list of vegetables that you could also use in minestrone.
- Shredded cabbage
Chicken stock and tomato puree will give you a rich, savoury broth whose flavour doesn’t get lost amongst the vegetables. A lighter, vegetarian friendly version would use just water or vegetable stock.
Now let’s talk about the wine. I haven’t always added red wine when making minestrone. Since l have begun to do so, l wouldn’t leave it out as it adds extra intensity to the soup. Just make sure it’s a nice wine … no cheap stuff.
Pasta and Beans
There’s nothing like pasta and beans to really bulk up your minestrone. It’s a good idea to use short pasta as it doesn’t take long to cook. Risoni (orzo), shell, elbow shaped pasta or even spaghetti broken up into bits will give you the added carb hit without dominating the veggies.
Only one more decision to make; the beans. I use black beans because they hold their shape well during cooking, and l love the colour. They are precooked which cuts down on the prep time. Yay! Cannellini, kidney or bortolli beans are also popular choices.
Don’t ever throw out a parmesan rind (the tough outer layer of parmesan cheese); it’s where the most intense flavour is, and what gives soups like minestrone, added savoury depth.
Just drop the rind into the soup while it’s simmering, and it will slowly release its flavour.
Some delicatessens that grate their own parmesan cheese, sell the rinds separately.
It’s worth asking.
Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 – 6
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onion (I use brown)
- 1 tbsp grated garlic
- 2 sticks of celery, diced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 small eggplant, cubed
- 1 small capsicum, diced
- 3 1/2 – 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups tomato puree / passata
- 2 tbsp red wine
- 1 x 400 g / 14 oz tin of black beans (note 1)
- 1/2 tsp of each dried oregano & dried basil
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp white pepper
- salt to taste
- optional: 1 parmesan rind (note 2)
- 1/2 cup risoni / orzo (note 3)
- optional: shredded parmesan cheese
- Heat oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Add the onions and saute until very soft. Then add the garlic and saute for a further 30 seconds.
- Add the diced carrots, celery and eggplant. Mix until vegetables are coated with the oil. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
- Then add the capsicum, stock, tomato puree, red wine, black beans, oregano, basil, white pepper and parmesan rind.
- Cover and gently simmer over low heat for 20 minutes (note 4).
- Bring to the boil and add risoni (or your choice of pasta). Boil gently until risoni is tender.
- Remove from the stove. Have a taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve with thick slices of Italian bread.
- I’ve chosen black beans because they hold their shape well during cooking and l like the colour. There are no rules about which beans you must use. Cannellini beans, kidney or bortolli beans also go nicely in minestrone.
- For added flavour, drop a parmesan rind into the soup as it simmers. The rind is the hard outer layer of a block of parmesan cheese. Some delicatessens grate their parmesan cheese on site, then sell the rinds.
- It’s best to use short pasta. I use risoni, which is shaped like a grain of rice, and cooks quickly. Shell or elbow shaped pasta also work well.
- Pasta swells if allowed to sit in liquid for too long. Add the pasta when you are about to serve.