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Minestrone d’inverno – Winter minestrone

This is one of those Italian words that doesn’t need a translation: it has become standard vocabulary.  Translated it means “big soup”: minestra becomes minestrone, just like cucina becomes cucinone: big kitchen.

So, why is this called a big soup then?  Quite simply because so much ingredients go into it that it is actually a meal in itself. Therefore minestrone is usually served as the main course in the evening, and never as a primo: the soup just is too big for that!

There is no definitive recipe for minestrone: everybody has a secret, or adds her own touch, recipes vary from region to region, and from season to season.  Minestrone should always be made with fresh, seasonal vegetables. So do not try to make the recipe for minestrone from your favorite cookbook in the winter when it calls for ripe tomatoes and zucchini.  Stick to the season!

These are the basics:  stick to them and you will get your minestrone right each time, whatever the ingredients or season.

  • sauté the vegetables and herbs in olive oil untill soft
  • add the water or broth and let simmer for 45 minutes
  • the more different vegetables you use, less will be the need for broth
  • pancetta adds extra depth and taste to the soup
  • if you have some Parmigiano-Reggiano rind at hand, then add this to your soup
  • a short type of pasta is usually added to the soup; sometimes rice is used
  • minestrone usually gets a finishing touch at the table; this can be pesto in summer (Liguarian habit), olive oil or some grated  cheese, black pepper.  Avoid using both olive oil and cheese.
  • you can add a slice of toasted bread if you want
Here is the recipe for a simple, basic winter minestrone, using easily availble ingredients.  Don’t be put of by the long list of ingredients: you can get almost all of them at your greengrocer: one stop shopping!
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 big branches of celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 branch rosemary
  • 150 gr pancetta,diced
  • 250 gr dried white beans, soaked overnight and cooked
  • 2 big potatoes, diced
  • 500 gr leaves, preferably  cavolo nero, (otherwise use spinach, or the outer leaves of savoy cabbage) shredded
  • broccoli, cut up in florets
  • 100 gr rind of parmigiano-reggiano (optional)
  • 150 gr short pasta, such as ditalini, stelle, orzo
  • sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a big soup pot. Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic, the herbs and the pancetta and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Add salt and black pepper. Add the cooking water of the white beans.  Bring to the boil and add the leaves, broccoli, potatoes and the cheese rind. Top up with water or broth so that all the vegatables are covered. Let simmer for  45 minutes.  Add the pasta and cook for another 15 minutes or untill the pasta is al dente.  Finally, add the cooked beans and let them heat through in the soup.
Serve the soup with extra virgin olive oil of the new season, OR (not and) grated parmigiano-reggiano
The minestrone will even taste better next day, and heated up, you can tell your guests they’re having ribollita.

Posted in Cucinone in English, Recipes.

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