Chilly winter evenings and a large bowl of steaming hot n’ hearty Italian minestrone soup (pronounced mini-stron-ee or mini-stron-eh) served with fresh warm bread & butter! Mmm.. happiness is hot soup on a cold day! Soup season is here to stay.
An ideal dinner soup for all appetites thanks to its thick, rustic consistency provided by a wide variety of delicious local & seasonal vegetables, beans & pasta, in a rich tomato-ey broth and some grated cheese on top! That’s a classic minestrone for you. Of course, a spoonful of fresh basil pesto on top would be even better, but that’s entirely upto you.
I remember as children when we had this soup dinner often during winters & we made a fuss to eat veggies, Mom would add these awesome alphabet pasta shapes to entice us & it actually tasted souper, believe it or not! Not only did it distract from chewing veggies, but competing with my sister to see who found the letters to form their name first, ensured we finished it all!! Not to forget, the winner got extra grated cheese in their soup!
Minestrone soup has a long history dating back to 2nd century B.C. when economic growth in Italy suddenly found a profusion of new varied vegetables to flood the markets, enabling peasants to invent this soup from leftovers and hence this healthy, tummy satisfying soup even today, has no precise recipe recorded. Different regions of Italy make differing versions of it, according to home grown produce.
Instead there are a few basic pantry staples & vegetables that form its core such as olive oil, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, herbs & tomatoes, kidney beans (rajma) or any other local ones, and lastly pasta. Seasonal vegetables include mushrooms, peas, bottle gourd, zucchini, red, yellow & green peppers, potato/sweet potato, red pumpkin, cabbage, spinach, broccoli/cauliflower florets & and french beans, anything that you can lay your hands on in your refrigerator.
Add a little bit of chopped ham, bacon or chicken & fresh herbs along with your onions & you have a great flavour enhancer. So when you make this wholesome soup dinner next, and your kids ask what’s for dinner, tell them it’s a soup-prise!
Recipe for Hearty Italian Minestrone Soup
Ingredients (Serves 2 – 4)
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled & diced
1 small zucchini/ bottle gourd, diced
10 mushrooms(optional), halved
¼ cup green peas
1 small green capsicum, diced
1 red/yellow bell pepper, diced
3-4 french beans, finely chopped
5-7 spinach leaves, washed
½ cup boiled kidney beans/rajma or any available white beans
½ cup elbow macaroni/penne, partially cooked in 1 cup of water-(save the water for later)
3-4 large tomatoes, roasted and pureed or
150ml readymade tomato puree
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon pepper powder/to your taste
1 teaspoon Italian herbs basil/oregano (I used thyme)
½ teaspoon chilli flakes(optional)
Salt to taste
Water as required
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic & celery & saute for a minute.
- For the nonvegetarians, add the ham/bacon now.
- Add in the carrot, green beans, zucchini, assorted bell peppers, & peas and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the dried oregano and basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, chilli flakes to taste; cook 3 more minutes.
- Add the tomato puree & 2 cups of water and and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the kidney beans and semi cooked pasta and cook until all vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Check your spices.
- Add the spinach leaves, lemon juice & the water in which you cooked the pasta and cook 2-3 minutes till the soup thickens a bit.
- Ladle into bowls and top with grated cheese.
- Serve hot with bread & butter.