My version of minestrone is based on the sweetness of the aromatics — onion, celery, carrot — meeting the deep flavor of cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale. The soup is infinitely customizable but the aromatics stay the same. Those ingredients and the olive oil are non-negotiable. Using olive oil to saute the aromatics, then adding a glug to the soup as it cooks, adds texture and flavor. Use an EVO that smells fresh, not funky.
Those last letters in the word minestrone mean big. Without it you have minestra, a thinner, lighter soup. With it you typically have the addition of pasta and beans to amp up the filling quality of the dish. I love pastina, a category of whimsical small shapes. But you can always just break up some spaghetti or bucatini and throw it in. I keep a bag of good orzo around just for my minestrone. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of barley or farro. You don’t need much to thicken the soup. This is not the dish for bell peppers of any kind — save those for a summertime minestrone — I’ll share that when the time comes. Minestrone is not a tomato soup; the tomato sauce or paste is used for a bit of acidic sweetness and color. Don’t drown the soup in tomato sauce.
Now for the herbs. At Angeli, we used fresh basil and parsley, and garlic. Add these if you have them in the house. If you don’t it’s fine; the vegetables create the flavorful broth as you cook them.
Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 package TJ or Erewhon Mirepoix
1 cup each diced onion, celery, carrots
Minced garlic to taste (you can either saute it after the mirepoix softens or add it to the water)
Any or all of the following vegetables cut for soup
-Diced and peeled potatoes
-Broccolini or spigariello
-Water to Cover
Parmesan rind (optional)
2/3 cup canned plum tomatoes, with juice or up to 1 cup tomato sauce
1 spris fresh basil, leaves cut in chiffonade
Small bunch Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems cut coarsely
Salt and pepper
1- 2 cups cooked cannellini, borlotti, pinto, or garbanzo beans
¼ cup pastina or broken pasta
Grated Parmesan for serving if you like
Generously film a soup pot with olive oil. Add the onion, celery, carrots and cook over medium heat until the vegetables soften and get a bit of color. Add remaining vegetables and cover with water by an inch or two and the cheese rind (if using). Add tomatoes with juice or tomato sauce along with basil, parsley and garlic
Season with salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly. Bring to a lively simmer. When the soup has cooked at least 45 minutes, add the previously cooked or canned beans and the pasta. Add a glug of EVO and cook until pasta is tender.
Just before serving, remove the cheese rind (if using) and correct the seasoning. Swirl in the grated cheese or let eaters add it to their bowls.