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Italian Minestrone Vegetable Soup

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The most delicious traditional Italian peasant soup, simmered for three hours. Learn how to make this soup with your local seasonal vegetable and the three secret ingredients that will make your soup really Italian.

Last week I went to the local farmers market and bought a whole basket of vegetable to make minestrone, an Italian peasant vegetable soup. This is a traditional recipe from Monferrato, that corner of Italy between France, Torino and Switzerland. There is no fancy chef's legerdemain involved, only good vegetables and a lot of work to prepare them. The recipe calls for seasonal vegetables as you can find them (see below). Read below to learn the 3 secret ingredients that will make your soup really Italian:

Minestrone [meenay-STRAW-nay]
1 kg soup potatoes
1 kg seasonal vegetables (onions, garlic, leeks, fresh or dried beans, green beans, carrots, celery, turnips, pumpkin, spinach, celery root, etc...)
150gr bacon
1 Parmesan crust
1 pig trotter
Bay leaves
Fresh parsley, basil, thyme and rosemary
Cloves
Salt, pepper
Freshly grated parmesan

I bought myself these extraordinary beans 'For sure my last this year' told me the white-haired mama at the market. 'I shelled them yesterday night. I have dry ones too if you want, but these are the very last fresh ones.' I was so enthused I showed them to another farmer at the next stall who wouldn't believe I could buy fresh beans in November - 'You'll need to cook them separately otherwise they'll taint your soup black'. And so I did, in a little water with a bay leaf, peppercorns and two cloves.

Many Italian simmered dishes, such as pasta sauces, ragù, or soups, begin with a soffritto. Start by sautéing finely diced bacon - in my case I used Swiss air-dried pig chest bacon.

 

Add finely chopped onions and leek and continue to sauté over medium-high heat until the onion and leek starts to brown slightly.

Add our first secret ingredient, her majesty the piggy trotter - ah these lovely piggy trotters, the butcher gave me this for free, he was amazed somebody would still eat these. In fact I am not too keen on trotters but they pack a large amount of gelatin that helps thickening the soup. You might use a marrow bone instead, but it would not be so authentic anymore.

 

Add the diced potatoes and other root vegetables (carrots, turnips, celery root, etc...). I also added cubed pumpkin from the market at this stage. Cooking time is not so vital here since the soup will cook for about 3 hours and every vegetable will fall apart. Cover with water, mineral water if you have it. Bring to a boil and then decrease the heat to simmer the soup for hours.

My enthusiasm for minestrone and my confidence I could keep it for several days convinced me to make a very large quantity. After all, there are economies of scale when making soup, and making twice as much won't take twice as long. My visits to a number of shops to by a very large soup pot were useless. When I reached this stage in the recipe, it became clear that I would not be able to fit 2 gallons of soup in a 1 gallon pot. So I used two pots instead and moved the pig trotter from one to the other!

 

Now for the fancy Italian touch. Secret ingredient #2 is a slice of pig skin (left) recycled from the chopping of the bacon. You won't eat it and I'll remove it from the soup at the end, but it will add flavor. As for secret ingredient #3, the most important and most Italian ingredient is the Parmesan crust (right), cut from a piece of Parmesan used later. Kids in Italy will fight over who gets to eat that, and it adds flavor to the soup.

A twig of rosemary or thyme will cook with the soup. You could add bay leaves and sew everything in a leek outer skin for a little French technique.

The freshly cut green beans and zuchini. Do not worry about overcooking the zuchini, they are meant to be so overcooked they'll turn to a delicious purée that will help thicken the soup.

 

After 20 minutes spent washing, stemming and cutting spinach leaves, they are finally ready to be added to the soup (left). The cooked beans (right) are filtered from their black cooking broth (same picture in the background, click to zoom).

Cover and simmer until most vegetables start falling apart without your needing to really crush them - about 3 hours.

 

Remove the pig skin, bay leaves and herbs. Add some finely chopped parsley or basil. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

With a potato crusher crush the vegetables. The spirit of this soup is very different from today's soups where vegetables should be cooked al dente, remain a bit crunchy and be fully recognizable. Here we cook everything for very long until the taste of every component joins together in a coarse mix of pure plant heaven. Vitamins are certainly lost in the long cooking process though.

That's it. Serve the soup hot with grilled bread, raw olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

You can reheat this soup the next day and the day after and even eat it cold. Since most ingredients are dissolved in the soup, the texture remains fine and palatable. I made this soup last Tuesday and ate some every night until Friday. 2 gallons of soup in 4 meals is still a commendable performance!


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57 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by et
Hi fx!Love your site :) One thing though can you please recommend a vegetarian version of the minestrone? This looks so good I really want to give it a try but I'm vegetarian.. Thanks for your help!ET
  • #2
  • Comment by Lali
This is certainly something I am going to try soon! I love minestrone, but I have never tried this kind of "thick" one. I think my family would hate it though (they are picky like that!). The picture of the prepared dish reminds me of the lentil dish that I tried at Elide's place (an old italian woman, friend of my mom), it was so delicious! (and so simple!)
  • #3
  • Comment by sts
Hey! Thats just delicious just from reading I can taste it.btw From the pig skin (I mean the rind of a bacon) you can prepare a sald - after cooking it slowly for a long time (I believe it is the one from your soup would be great) cut it finely, add some onions and some vinigar and oil - its delicious.sts who strongly believes that if you kill an animal you should eat evrything you can eat.
  • #4
  • Comment by Macha
I've always been disappointed with minestrones, wherever I had them -not Italy. This looks nice though and if I come across a trotter I'll have a go myself. Now, where did I see those trotters last time...I like the pig-skin-trick. I often do a similar thing with the hard leathery-fatty part of a block of ham (skin I suppose); add it into the frying pan to boost flavour.
  • #5
  • Comment by maria
Oh, dear!  The soup sounds delicious. But, what if my husband is Jewish?  Is there another type of equally flavorful meat I could use?
  • #6
  • Comment by Kathy
Yummy! That looks very good. As for the vitamins, the vitamins leached out of the vegetables will be found in the water. So, you don't lose any vitamins if you drink all the yummy juices. Thanks for the recipe!
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
Kathy, thanks for the tip on vitamin A. Are you sure the long simmering does not destroy this vitamin? How about other vitamins?
Hey I did a minestrone soup just a few minutes ago and posted it on my blog, I love seeing the different technique on this one and great quality pictures.
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
Johnny, thanks a lot for visiting, I am glad that professionals like FXcuisine.com too! I visited your blog, great stuff! If you allow me, in French, kitchen is feminine, so it ought to be 'La petite cuisine' for 'The little kitchen'. Here it is more 'The small guy's kitchen'. Of course only a French speaker might notice it so never mind and keep the good work!
  • #10
  • Comment by constantins
Nothing wrong with "le petit kitchen"I am french and I like this quite suitable american rendition.
  • #11
  • Comment by MariWarby
Thanks! Definitely the best minestrone recipe I have ever made, and the pictures are so beautiful you just want to cook!  This is a joy to make and eat.
  • #12
  • Answered by fx
Mari Warby, thanks for visiting and I hope you try this soon! If you liked this soup, have a look at my Magical Italian Pesto Soup, you are bound to love it!
  • #13
  • Comment by James Black
I really enjoyed reading your informative piece. The photos were great too.

Regards
James Black
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
James, thanks for visiting!
  • #15
  • Comment by Johnny
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.... that sounds and looks sooooooooo goood!!!! I bet it tastes even better! Hungry now!
  • #16
  • Comment by Johnny
Hey Lady,

After reading this thing a couple of days ago, I felt enormous craving for minestrone soup.
It was already late, and I didn't have time to do the shopping and cooking so I went to a local restaurant and ordered the Minestrone soup. I never expected that it was so great as in your recipe, but I expected something that was closer that the stuff the served me.
The soup I got was made with stock from a pack and also tomato powder.
I was so disappointed and sent it back with a sour face telling them that it wasn't minestrone, but some kind of tomato soup.
Was i right?
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
Johnny, this is a most delicious soup, I cooked it twice, using seasonal vegetables, in the last 10 days! Just had it an hour ago - you need to try it.
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
Johnny, restaurant minestrone is crap and you were very right to send it back. You are doing them a service. I think the only really reliable minestrone is made in a family or by yourself. It's no big deal once you found the vegetables, and there is much leeway in the choice, just take what looks nice in the season. The peeling and carving takes some time, but it's great fun too!
Hi Fx, what soupah looking soup!

regarding your line: "Vitamins are certainly lost in the long cooking process though." I have read recently that cooking does NOT destroy the nutritional content of vegetables! (despite what we had all been told by probably our mothers) It is when vegetables are boiled and the nutrients leech into the cooking water and the cooking water is discard that the loss occurs. As the cooking water is retained in soups there is no loss of vitamins. Isn't that good news!

Did I mention I cooked the Beef Bourguignon? All eaten on the night, none left. All gone. Fantastic!
  • #20
  • Answered by fx
Simon, glad my recipes worked for you! In my house my mom always served the cooking liquid of the vegetables as a first course so that we wouldn't lose the precious vitamins, so I guess she concurs with you! Pity in our day and age we tend to cook things less and less.
One thing you might want to add is that it is better if you scrape the Parmigiano rind a bit, before adding it to the soup. The rind on Parmigiano cheese is regularly brushed with vegetable oils of dubious quality during the aging process, and these oils do go rancid, as the aging takes quite a long time. Plus, the rind is really the outer skin of the cheese - Parmigiano is not packaged in anything as it is transported in trucks with people with boots climbing on the cheese wheel, you get the picture.

Just a little scraping: maybe one millimeter, just enough to get the outer layer off. For metrically-challenged readers, one millimeter would be more or less 1/25 of an inch. No, better, 5/128th of an inch, to stay with the tradition of using unspeakably inconvenient fractional measures.
  • #22
  • Answered by fx
Walter you are very right not to trust the Parmesan rind, in fact I know use mostly actual Parmesan and not especially the rind, who knows what they use on the outer crust!
  • #23
  • Comment by cmm
Very easy to follow and great photography.  Thank You!!!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks and glad you liked it. A great soup!

  • #25
  • Comment by giovanni
This one is an absolutely fabulous recipe and wouldn't dare suggesting any change. But I remember that in the very traditional farming communities of northern Italy some red wine was added to the concoction, probably to add some sharpness or possibly to get everyone happily drunk on minestrone. I adored your version. Giovanni
  • FX's answer→ Giovanni, the red wine sounds like a great idea, perhaps the guests could decide whether to add it or not, in their own plates, like they do in France?

  • #27
  • Comment by Anna
I have 1 hour left of cooking time, but so far I am a bit grossed out by this soup. The greasy factor is overwhelming. I dont know what i did wrong aside from using slightly different vegetables. I do not really believe that matters though b/c it is meant to just be seasonal vegetables. My pig trotters were cut up, maybe that is why i have such a greasy soup/ I dont know, some people may like that but i personally do not, i really hope with further cooking it goes away- i already pulled out all the pork skin/ pig trotter pieces and cheese. I am quite upset that it is not tasty and I hope i can fix it.
  • #28
  • Comment by anna
update: My husband classes this as a top 5 recipes out of all the things i have made for him. I guess I just dont have the pallate for this soup. Oddly enough the other things he enjoys I also do not particularly like- such as beef bourginion. So just goes to show you, everyone is different, but according to my husband this is just amazing. This soup DID get substantially better the next day and after being mushed a little bit, but i just simply find the flavors too savory for my liking.
  • FX's answer→ Great to hear this soup brought your husband a ray of sun on the family dinner table!

  • #30
  • Comment by Michelle
This is delicious even without the pig foot.  More than one vendor at my local market has a pile of pig's feet (for sale!) but I couldn't quite bring myself to buy one.  This is bringing me very fond memories of my one trip to Italy - thank you!
  • FX's answer→ Michelle, the pile of pig feet must be quite a sight!

Hi! I'm italian but it seems you know much better our traditional dishes than me :-)
I think that minestrone soup's recipe can really change according to the different regions. I live in Rome and here minestrone soup is made of vegetables only. I've never tried to use bacon or piggy trotter. Also, as far as I know my mom use to put the pig skin in another striclty "roman" recipe called "fagioli con le cotiche". I totally agree with the grated parmesan (sooo tasty on each pasta or soup recipe!)but what about the crust? I barely know it can be eat! :D I have to try it!
  • FX's answer→ Kayama, indeed it is a constant fact of Italian regional gastronomy that you find the same recipe with very slight variations but with a different name every 30km. You can certainly do a minestrone without any pig fat. Fagioli con le cotiche is delicious but quite different. The parmesan crust is not eaten, just simmered in the soup.

  • #34
  • Comment by Fasulye
Is there also a vegetarian variant of this Minestrone recipe available, because I wouldn't want to use trotters and bacon? Fasulye
  • FX's answer→ Fasulye, of course you can cook this with no pancetta and no pig trotters. But try to get a piece of parmesan rind, if your local supermarket sells cheese by the slice you can ask the guy and he'll give you a couple for the soup. Just used a Parmesan rind in a tomato sauce tonight - divine!

  • #36
  • Comment by ajay
hi! i am ajay panwar i'm student of hotel management i think italian cuision has a distigunish character which is i become popular across the world. specially minestroney soup, risoto dishes ,pasta and pizz these are delicaey of italian which are show there culturte and folk. the italain peopale.
  • #37
  • Comment by Omí Wale
.

I learned how to make Minestrone.... reading the ingredients from a can of Campbell's soup, way before we could dream of Internet to see your fabulous recipe.  People love my minestrone; if I make changes, they scream.

Campbell's never mentioned a dash of Parmesan Cheese, let alone Pecorino.  Very important to find out now.

Thanks for the news about the "pig feet"; in my country we are slaves to pig tails, rind, ribs, salted any part of....  We love it.  Problem is I would have to put a couple pieces for each diner; I told you we love pig, and each one would want a complete foot, believe me.  Up to now I've been using salted pig tails, fresh ribs & ham.  Ground beef and pieces of beef, too.  Never chicken.

I also love the news that Campbell's is not my guide.  That it is best to use what is in season, nice & fresh.  Hurray.

For this soup I am not prone to go al dente, but will stay a little away from mushy.  Say, well done and some thickness to it.

I will make an effort to go natural and I look forward to try to imitate the shade of soup you show us.  Up to now I go a little heavy on Paprika and tomato.... to attain an orangy shade.  But will try to acquire the shade that you show.  I find that attractive too.

Thanks for the step by step that is so easy to follow.

A kiss and a hug....

Omí Wale


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  • #38
  • Comment by karen
si vas a comprar la olla para cocinar las puedes encontar de gran tamaño en las tiendas para restoran ellos tienen fondos que son de 10, 20 hasta 50 litros son fantasticas..
  • #39
  • Comment by Margarita P. Pezzotti
Me gusto mucho encontrar tu receta de sopa minestrone.  De inmediato fui al mercado a comprar los ingredientes, aunque no la prepare porque era ya tarde, pero me pase toda la noche soñando que la preparaba asi es que al levantarme al otro dia, o sea hoy, me dispuse a hacerlo.  Me quedo riquisima.
Gracias mil por tu receta.
margarita
  • #40
  • Comment by Cathy Cooper
I ADOOOOOOORE this recipe and so do all my friend. I have done it over and over again and it's true that the secret ingredients make one hell of a difference. I don't use the diced bacon because of an allergy problem but the trotters make up for it in flavour. Spinach is a  very good addition.
Thank you !!!!
Kind regards
Cathy Cooper
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Cathy, glad you liked it!
    The bit I like most is the piece of ungrated Parmesan (rind or crumb) that cooks in the soup. It really works wonders towards the final flavor.

  • #42
  • Comment by olga
Delicioso, lo hare mañana, no me preocupa el tiempo
  • #43
  • Comment by Ander
¡Hola!

¡Tú sí que sabes...! Las sopas bien hechas como lo hacían nuestras madres (ya son abuelas) son lo mejor que podemos comer. ¡Si nuestras abuelas vivían fuertes hasta muy viejas!
Todo eso de la nutrición es un fraude. Si yo te contara... Nos tratan como si fueramos robots. No somos la suma de vitaminas y demás tonterías. Yo lo que como es ¡comida! O sea, energía o vida. ¡Hay que comer caliente! Esta es la sabiduría de siempre.
Te lo escribo porque te lo mereces.
  • #44
  • Comment by Joanne
I have been searching all morning for a recipe that is like the minestrone that my Noni used to make.  This is the first time I found one that is thick like hers.  It sound so wonderful I have made a shopping list and will be preparing for freinds this weekend.  I will be back.  Thanks so much.
Joanne
  • #45
  • Comment by Beatriz
Probaré esta receta, se ve deliciosa y los ingredientes ... realmente exquisitos!!! Gracias por compartirla.
  • FX's answer→ Muchas gracias por tu visita Beatriz!

  • #47
  • Comment by ARTURO OLIVO
PARA LOS QUE NOS GUSTAN LAS SOPAS, ME PARECE UNA RECETA ESTUPENDA, SOBRE TODO POR LOS INGREDIENTES SECRETOS ESTE MISMO FIN DE SEMANA ME DOY A LA TAREA DE PREPARARLA
  • #48
  • Comment by antonio
que sopa tan formidable, hace tiempo la probe en Venecia y me parecio estupenda, me he atrevido a hacerla y me a salido cojonuda ( estupenda).
gracias por tus indicaciones.  

  • FX's answer→ Muchas gracias por tu visita!

  • #50
  • Comment by Patricia
Made this fab recipe Delicious Most relaxing not having to worry about al dente stuff
3 Secret ingredients? Well got Parmesan crust, used oxtail instead of trotter & chunk offstage off a smoked haunch
But what I wrote to ask youis:  Is it wrong to put pasta, e.g. Vermicelli in Ministrone?

With thanks great site Well done It's so cheerful
Look forward to reply

Patricia
  • FX's answer→ Wow, great idea to build up the hit-me-back taste, smoked meat. I think adding pasta is not a problem, just if you cooked way more soup than you will eat on the day I would reserve the soup to be eaten later before adding the pasta, as pasta in a soup becomes very wet when left overnight.

  • #52
  • Comment by Mary Luz
Acabo de hacer ésta sopa. Realmente fue una experiencia gastronómica memorable!!! Me han encantado los artículos y las recetas. Me gustaría saber si tienes alguna receta de "eisbein". Soy de México, si te interesa alguna receta, con gusto te la doy. Saludos.
  • FX's answer→ Muchas gracias Mary Luz, el Eiswein es una cosa un pò complicada. Me encanta todo de la cocina Mexicana!

  • #54
  • Comment by yuri
Muchas gracias por la receta, aunque haré algunas modificaciones en la cocción ya que no nos gusta las sopas con las verduras sobre cocidas, que son mas bien como pastas, de igual forma todos los ingredientes son geniales para incluirlos, muchas gracias!
  • FX's answer→ Gracias a tu por tu visita!

  • #56
  • Comment by Antonio
Excelente y didáctico. Lo invita a hacerla en su propia cocina.
  • FX's answer→ Gracias!




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