Another classic of the huge Italian selection of winter (and summer!) soups is Minestrone.
The versatility of this recipe is clear from the first spoon: a mix of vegetables, preferably seasonal, chopped small and put to simmer on the stove for a long time. The choice of the veggies mix is left to your imagination, to the availability and to the season. There are so many recipes of Minestrone from Northern to Southern Italy that whatever you do has probably already been tested somewhere.
It is easy to imagine how people who used to have a vegetable garden all year long started putting together what was available to feed the family, accompanying the soup with toasted bread and a piece of cheese to make a great, balanced dinner.
There are just a few elements that are a must – but this is my personal selection: first, the “soffritto”. Onion, carrots, and celery in equal quantities, chopped finely and let it fry gently in a veil of EV Olive oil. Second, Swiss chard: the taste of the broth of this green leaf is superior to any other, and so typical of minestrone – you can’t miss it. Third, zucchini: not very flavorful maybe, but always there. Finally: beans, a good source of proteins. The variety used in Italy is called “borlotti”, which are hard to find in the US, either dry or canned. It can be substituted with cannellini beans or pinto beans.
To this base you can add whatever vegetable you like; spinach, cabbage, kale, green beans, English peas, fava beans, snow peas, squash – you name it. The only ones that do not work well in my opinion are peppers and eggplant. I also like to keep mushrooms away from minestrone, as it does not fit in the general taste of this soup, but you should find out by yourself.
For the anecdote, the word “minestrone” is also used in the Italian language to indicate a mix of things that have nothing or little in common. For example, people could say of a political program that it is a minestrone of projects to make everyone happy. So, creativity is the rule for this soup!
The benefits of eating such a bounty of veggies are clear. Maybe some vitamins will be lost during the cooking process, but all in all it is still a flavorful, fulfilling and healthy dish. Some ingredients may even be added frozen, as you need small quantities of each.
In Italy at the end of the cooking time we often add some pasta. It will make the soup even thicker and add some carbs for a complete meal.
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For 4 Servings
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
½ glass of white table wine
1 pint chicken stock preprepared (or vegetable stock)
1 cup rinsed blueberries
1 cup roasted chestnuts or more, chopped in big pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese (optional)