Throughout the world there are certain dishes that utilise left-overs from one meal to make a completely different one. In the UK we use mashed potato & veggies to make Bubble & Squeak, in China, they add odds & ends to fried rice & in Italy, they make minestrone soup.
Possibly as old as the hills, Minestrone soup is an ideal one-pot soup to make in the hills. This is my interpretation of the Italian classic.
Start with a Soffritto
The soffritto (aromatic) stage is not about searing, browning or burning, it is about slowly releasing delicious flavours from aromatic ingredients – so don’t be hasty. Begin by chopping the onion, carrot & celery into roughly 1centimetre cubes & slowly sweating them off* in a pan with a tablespoon of oil, over a low to medium heat. If the veg starts to turn brown it is too hot – take the pan off the heat for a moment, or add a dash of wine to cool the pan. Once the vegetables are softened & the onions translucent, add finely chopped garlic & not-so-finely chopped tomato, along with whatever herbs take your fancy (just don’t over do it). Sweat-off for a further few minutes &…
*Sweating-off simply means to heat something up until the moisture starts to ooze.
then add a little protein
Many folks like to add beans as the protein source, but I personally like to add left-over cooked chicken, bacon or Italian sausage (or all three if I’m feeling extravagant). Mix the proteins around with the aromatics & then deglaze the pan with a slosh of dry white wine (if you have some), ensuring you loosen any fats & juices that are congealing on the base of the pan. Then…
pour in some stock
If you live in a perfect world, now is the time to add some freshly made stock, lovingly made from veal, pork or chicken bones, that have been simmering away for a few hours. Or, you could just add some water & a stock cube. Stir around &..
chuck in some carbohydrates
A minestrone wouldn’t be minestrone without pasta, but don’t over do it. Drop in one small handful of dry pasta per person to the pot & after 5 minutes simmering…
maybe add a clip of tender vegetables
Green, leafy veg doesn’t take long to cook & will rapidly disintegrate if over cooked. At this stage I like to add a floret or two of broccoli, mushrooms, kale, or kalettes if they are in season. Simmer once again for a further 5 minutes or so…
and then taste & season, taste & season
When the pasta is near enough cooked to your liking, it is now time to taste the soup. When it comes to seasoning with salt & pepper, add a little at a time – remember once it’s in, it’s in. Also, tomato dishes also have a tendency to be quite acidic, which can be offset by adding something like honey or sugar. (If you are feeling a tad Cordon Bleu, look-up how to make a ‘Gastrique’ to improve the taste of a tomato dish).
don’t forget the flourishes
Now that your soup is cooked to perfection, add-on a few add-ons if you fancy. Grated parmesan, chopped parsley, crispy onions, caramelised pancetta – the choice is yours. For me, a chap of simple rustic tastes, I am quite partial to a few finely chopped chilis & some pan-fried herby croutons, but hey, the world, as they say, is your minestrone…
INGREDIENTS FOR ONE
- 1 small onion (or 2 shallots)
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small stick of celery
- A clove or two of garlic
- Oil (Olive oil, vegetable oil or butter)
- Herbs of choice: Oregano, thyme, sage
- 1 large tomato (or a few small ones)
- Protein of choice
- A glug of dry white wine
- A pint of stock
- A handful of pasta
- A clip of tender veg
- Salt & pepper