A good minestrone is one that has the feel of the season. In spring it may have peas and asparagus. In winter, cabbage and more beans. I like to add a paste of lardo and herbs, a cross between a gremolata and a pesto, to add depth and body to a good minestrone. Use our recipe below, or make up your own minestrone and just add the paste at the end.
- 150 g dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight
- 2–3 tsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 6–8 garlic cloves, crushed, plus 5 garlic cloves, crushed, extra
- 2 carrots, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced (or use 500 ml tomato passata)
- 100 g cabbage, shredded
- 3–4 thyme sprigs
- 2 litres (4 cups) homemade chicken stock
- 1 small bunch cavolo nero, stems removed (see Note)
- 2 thick slices (about 100 g) lardo
- 4 large rosemary sprigs or 1 small bunch parsley (or both), chopped
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.
Soaking time 8 hours
Drain and rinse the beans.
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat and fry onion and garlic until the onion is softened. Add the beans, carrot, celery, tomato, cabbage, thyme and chicken stock.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 1 hour, or until the beans are very tender but not soggy. It may take 2 hours, or even up to 4 hours, to cook.
Add the cavolo nero and simmer for about 15 minutes.
On a chopping board, finely chop the lardo, then add the herbs and extra garlic. Use your knife to finely chop and mix the lardo, herbs and garlic.
Serve the minestrone with a generous sprinkle of the lardo mix.
• Cavolo nero is sometimes known as black kale, Tuscan kale or black cabbage. In its place you could use another type of kale or even some frilly cabbage.
Also try Matthew Evans' lardo pizza.