This minestrone is the only dish I have made every year of my life since I was sixteen. All those years ago, I found the recipe in an Elizabeth David paperback cookbook with yellowed pages and falling out pages.
It’s the kind of recipe that seems to come from the heart rather than the head, although the sensible side of me says it’s a great recipe for using up sad vegetables and keeping in the freezer for times of need.
When I heard what had happened to my cousin, I booked the first flight to Brisbane I could and heard on the grapevine that my cousin wanted vegetable soup, so in amongst last minute packing, I made soup and blended some to make it easier for him to eat after surgery (and yes, the MyCook – a Thermomix competitor – I’ve been loaned for review made it quicker, but I have made this on the stove for most of my life, so please don’t feel like it’s essential).
It was a while before I started thinking about the logistics of getting soup on the plane with a one year old too, but I bulldozed on because I had to try. I decided to leave the decision in the lap of airport security and wrapped up the soup in tea towels and a huge garbage bag I found in the shed, which amounted to more new plastic than I’ve used in the last six months, but I pushed on.
At the airport security queue, the guy signalled me out and directed me into a cordoned off area. They know, I thought. I had visions of being filmed for a reality TV show while a whole lot of security guys sampled the liquid in question to check it really was soup.
I was wrong, they were being nice, because I had a little person strapped to my front and moving me through quicker than everyone else. I asked the guy about my soup as I put my bag on the conveyor belt and he said, there are no restrictions for domestic in Australia, only international. I could’ve kissed him. No doubt, he’s grateful I restrained.
Amazingly, the soup didn’t explode at altitude, didn’t leak and made it to my cousin complete. He had a sip and sighed, ‘I can feel the goodness working already.’ I cried with happiness, because I’m so amazed at how well he is recovering. The human spirit is strong and so is a good soup.
This minestrone is a Genovese style because you add pesto at the end. You might be able to tell from the ingredients pic that the pesto I use is darker that’s because we grow perennial basil and when I hack it back we make pesto and freeze it in trays. Pesto could be considered an optional extra, but it does a lot to lift the flavour. The peas and parmesan rind are also optional extras. Again, I keep the rinds of parmesan in the freezer for throwing into Italian dishes. Recently, I’ve also started boiling dried kidney beans and freezing extra, so I used those rather than tinned. I didn’t have potatoes, but you can throw two of them in just before the zucchinis.
If you’re taking this to someone in hospital, then real chicken or vegetable stock pack a powerful nutritious punch and I’d be really hesitant about replacing it with stock cubes and yet again, to make it easier I freeze homemade stock.
This soup tastes surprisingly good blended if someone can’t eat solid food.
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 short cut rashers of free range bacon or 2 full rashers, diced
- A couple of bay leaves
- 2 sticks celery, diced
- 3 large or 4 small carrots, diced
- 1 tin tomatoes or 7 overripe tomatoes
- 2 zucchini, diced
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 can tinned kidney beans or 1 cup dried kidney beans, soaked overnight and boiled for two hours
- 1 parmesan rind (optional)
- 1 cup pasta
- 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
- 1/2 cup pesto
- Parmesan (optional)
- Dice onion. Heat oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat, add onion and allow to brown slightly. Add crushed garlic, bay leaves and diced bacon and allow to brown slightly.
- Add carrot and celery and cook for a few minutes. Add zucchini, tomatoes, chicken stock and parmesan rind (if using) and cook for 20 minutes. Add kidney beans, pasta and frozen peas (if using them) and cook for 15 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with a tablespoon of pesto and a sneaky sprinkle of parmesan.