My minestrone, made with potatoes, carrots, small red beans, green beans, fresh tomatoes, and sproingy noodles. All just stuff I had on hand.I just learned a great tip for making this free-form soup: add a couple spoonfuls of pesto at the end! I thought I should post the recipe (or more like, guidelines) as a reminder of this tasty dish. There are basically no rules for minestrone, so just use what you have on hand. I added a ham hock by simmering it for a long time in the broth and cutting the meat off of it to add to the finished soup, but you can use pancetta or bacon or just leave it vegetarian if you like.
several pieces pancetta or bacon (or 2 Tbsp. olive oil)
mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrots, diced)
red pepper flakes (optional)
3-4 c. stock or water
1 can tomato sauce
a few dashes of red wine
mixed vegetables, diced:
--white things like potatoes, parsnips, or celeriac
--summer squash or winter squash
--additional carrots or celery
--chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
--green things like green beans, peas, collards or spinach
1 can kidney or canellini beans, drained
2 Tbsp. pesto (or equivalent herbs and garlic)
cooked small noodles (~1/2 box) or 2 c. cooked rice
salt & pepper
parmesan for garnish
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, render the fat from the bacon or pancetta, or heat up the oil. Add the bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Saute the mirepoix over medium-high heat until it is tender and begins to brown on the edges.
Add the stock, red wine, and tomato sauce and bring to a gentle boil.
Begin adding the vegetables, with the densest ones first. For instance, add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes before adding the green beans. Once the vegetables are 90% cooked, add the beans. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the pesto. Stir in the rice or noodles.
Adjust the seasonings and serve piping hot with freshly grated parmesan. This is delicious with crusty bread and makes excellent planned-overs.
NOTE: An awesome and 'authentic' touch is to simmer the soup with a piece rind from the parmesan cheese. It gives a great flavor, but I already used my rind for the last soup I made, so I couldn't use it this time!