Italian Minestrone Vegetable SoupHome >> Recipes
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:
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!