A rustic vegetable soup with ancient origins and no formal recipe, a good minestrone is one of the quintessential dishes of Italian cuisine.
The origins of minestrone (from minestra, “soup”) trace back to the Romans who made a similar soup called pulte, a basic one-pot meal of grains such as spelt or farro boiled in salty water with any available vegetables. As Rome expanded so did its diet, and such subsistence cooking such as minestrone became part of the cucina povera, the food of the poor.
Preparations of minestrone vary widely as it has no set or accepted recipe, but two elements are most common. It is traditionally a vegetarian dish, as meat was often a luxury, and it usually features very regional and seasonal vegetables, reflecting its utilitarian nature. Of course, ham or sausage can be added to taste but such practice can often transform it into another soup altogether.
With potatoes being a New World ingredient, typical starches include pasta, dumplings, and beans or other legumes amid chunks of fresh seasonal vegetables. Any type of stock can be used as a base, or even simply seasoned water as the vegetables cook into their own broth.
Likewise, any type of pasta works well but small shapes like conchiglie, elbow macaroni or ditalini sit best on the spoon with the consistent sizes of beans and diced ingredients. Feel free to substitute any favorite or available vegetables, including leafy greens.
Serve with just buttered, toasted bread for a satisfying meatless meal, or as an appetizer course for a full Italian spread.
½ yellow onion
1 clove of garlic
1 stalk of celery
14.5-oz can of tomatoes (diced)
15.5-oz can of cannellini beans
8-oz can of green beans
4 c chicken stock
1 T tomato paste
1 t basil
1 T parsley
1 c ditalini (cooked)
1 Dice the onion, carrot and celery, and mince the garlic. Sauté in oil until soft, about 5 min. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste and spices.
2 Add the stock and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 min.
3 Add the beans and pasta and cook until warmed through, about another 5 min. Season to taste.
(Alternatively, you can cook the pasta directly in the soup by simmering for an additional 10 min. Add an additional 2 c water, as the dry pasta will soak up a great deal of liquid as it cooks.)