Minestrone is probably one of the oldest and easiest soups to make. It dates back to Roman times and is on practically every single Italian menu from pizzeria to more upscale restaurants. It is basically a vegetarian soup that is seasonal and has no exact recipe because it relies on local and seasonal ingredients. It would vary from region to region in Italy and season. One thing I can tell you, is that it never contained meat nor should it. So when you browse recipes on the internet which calls for bacon or pancetta or whatever type of meat, its not what minestrone is about. It can contain pasta or beans, but never meat, its a peasant dish and meat was only reserved for holidays. So when I go to a restaurant today and its got pepperoni in it, I just have to laugh.
The basic recipe is below, but remember, while there are no rules (other than no meat), you can customize it to your liking. For example, while many use white cannelloni beans, my wife prefers chickpeas. No problem. The first time I saw this made in front of me was from my old Calabrian friend Victor and he actually used zucchini flowers fresh from the garden, he even put some broken up linguine pasta in it.
- 1 Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 Cloves Garlic, crushed or sliced thin
- 1 Teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 Teaspoon Thyme
- 1 Cup diced onion, celery, carrots
- 4 Cups Chicken Broth (or to keep it vegan or vegetarian, simply use cold spring water and add extra salt)
- 1/4 Cup Tomato sauce
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 Cup Beans (white, kidney, garbanzo, chick peas, whichever you prefer)
- 1 Pinch Hot Pepper flakes (Optional)
- 50 Grams or half cup of crushed tomato sauce
- 50 Grams of pasta (your choice, optional)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Boil your pasta first if you wish to include it. Be sure to use a small type pasta like ditalini. Drain, set aside and add to the soup last.
Heat the olive oil and garlic in a Dutch Oven (a heavy cast iron pot with enamel coating), if you don’t have one, a good stainless steel pot will also work. Once you can smell the garlic but not before it burns, add in your chopped onion/celery/carrot mixture. Salt well and add pepper. Once the vegetables become soft and translucent (about 5 minutes), add in your chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add in the tomatoes. After another 5 minutes, add in your beans. Canned beans work fine for this, just be sure to rinse them well. Continue to simmer until the beans are heated through. Remember, if anything is canned, its already cooked, you just need to heat them well enough to be hot. In less than 30 minutes the soup should be done.
Serve with grated parmesan cheese, add some fresh basil if you have some, good Italian bread, and you are all set.