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May 3, 2011

Minestrone – or minestra as my Maltese mother-in-law would say – is one of those ancient dishes that have been kicking around since Roman times. If something lasts that long, you can bet you’re on a pretty good wicket with it, and for sure, minestrone is one of those fantastic soups that’s pretty much a meal on its own – especially if you serve it with a nice, crusty vienna from the local bakery – and it can be made with plenty of ready-to-hand ingredients.

So use this recipe as a kind of base, and mix and match, add and subtract what you’ve got handy or what you think’ll go well.

What do I need?

  • Generous dash of olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 or 2 rashers of bacon
    (optional: especially leave this out if you have a vegetarian lurking in your house)
  • 1 x 440g can of tomatoes
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 200g pumpkin
  • Chunk of parsnip
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tsp or so of dried oregano
  • 7 cups of water
  • A couple of handfuls of macaroni (the small type)
  • 1 x 440g can of kidney beans
  • Handful of fresh, chopped parsley
  • Salt & pepper
  • Parmesan to serve

What do I do?

Heat the oil and slice the onions, celery and garlic. Chop the bacon into pieces.

Include some of the celery leaves if you like. When you slice the garlic, slice it fairly thickly – at least a couple of millimetres thick (see the photo below), so that it holds its shape and doesn’t dissolve during the cooking. Hunting the biggest piece of garlic has sometimes been quite a sport for my kids.

Slice garlic thickly

Slice the garlic thickly

Fry the onions, celery, garlic and bacon over medium heat, until the onions are softened.

Peel and chop the potatoes and pumpkin into rough cubes, around 1 to 1 ½ cm. You only need a chunk of parsnip, maybe the size of a very small potato. This will add a hint of sweet, distinctive flavour to the soup, without the parsnip flavour overpowering everything else.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, parsnip, carrots, oregano and water to the saucepan. Bring the saucepan to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You might also like to add a bit of stock or stock powder to the broth to bolster the flavour a little.

Add the pasta and beans, and cook for another 10 minutes – until the pasta is cooked.

Stir in the parsley and serve, with parmesan shaved on top.

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