Stefano Manfredi recalls eating this fabulous touch-your-heart Italian soup, full of fresh vegetables at least once a week as a boy. In a twist on tradition, Manfredi finely chops the parmesan rind and leaves it in the soup instead of discarding before serving. Minestrone is a soup that gets better with age, so while it’s good the day you make it, it’s even better the day after.
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 8 garlic cloves, each cut into 3–4 pieces
- 1 celery heart including the pale, tender leaves, sliced
- 2 large or 4–5 smaller carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 cups roughly chopped savoy cabbage
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup fresh flageolet beans, or other fresh (or cooked dried) beans
- 350 g waxy potatoes such as desiree, peeled and diced
- 200 g tin Italian tomatoes, crushed
- 100 g carnaroli rice
- 150 g spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 60 g parmesan rind, cut into 1 cm cubes
- freshly ground black pepper
- freshly grated parmesan, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and add the onion, garlic, celery heart, carrot, cabbage and bay leaves. Lightly fry the vegetables for 2–3 minutes without letting them colour. Stir in the beans, potato and tomato, then cover the ingredients with water. Once the soup comes to the boil, add the rice and turn down to a simmer. Add a few good pinches of salt and simmer for 20–25 minutes.
Add the spinach, parsley and parmesan rind and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding extra salt if needed, and pepper. Serve with plenty of grated parmesan and crusty bread.