Chi ben cena, ben dorme. “He who drinks soup, sleeps well”. This Italian proverb is quite far from the famous “He who sleeps forgets his hunger”. So let’s have a supper with an institution of Italian cuisine: minestrone.
What is minestrone?
Minestrone comes from Italian minestra which means “soup” or “to serve”. It designates a preparation of fresh seasonal vegetables cut and cooked in a broth.
Consumed throughout Italy, there are many variations depending on the seasons and regions, often associated with dried beans, pasta, rice, but also sometimes basil and Parmesan cheese. There is no single recipe for minestrone as its origins are rooted in remote and rural popular Italian tradition.
Minestrone is the epitome of the cucina povera or cuisine of the poor as opposed to cucina nobile, noble cuisine. A hearty, simple and inexpensive cuisine that allowed the people to take advantage of the leftovers of previous meals, mainly accompaniments in this case here, to which seasonal vegetables from the garden or market were added.
How to make minestrone
Although today, we often find blends of all these vegetables, there are however major regional trends in the selection of the ingredients in minestrone.
Indeed, it is more common to find root vegetables such as the potato, carrot, celery and onion in northern Italy, while stem vegetables are usually used in the South, including tomatoes, peas, beans or zucchini. Also, although most recent recipes ask for vegetable or chicken stock, the authentic and traditional recipe of minestrone only required water.
The recipe I chose for today is a vegetarian minestrone, but again it is only a variant among a multitude of recipes as some recipes include bacon or a whole piece of ham, a pork head or pancetta. Vegetarian minestrone was at the time more popular, due to the high price of meat.
Categories of soup in Italy
Italians classify their soups in three distinct categories according to their consistency:
– Minestrine for light soups or broths
– Minestre for hearty soups
– Minestroni for thick soups
Minestrone is therefore part of the latter group.
If you like soup as much as I do, I invite you to discover all the soup recipes we have already featured on 196 flavors.
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , crushed
- 3 tomatoes , peeled and cut into medium cubes
- 2 celery stalks , diced
- 1 zucchini , cut into medium cubes
- 3 carrots , peeled and cut into medium cubes
- 3 potatoes , peeled and cut into medium cubes
- ½ lb green beans , cut into pieces
- ½ lb peas
- 6 oz. dry white beans
- 4 oz. pasta or rice (optional)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups water
- Olive oil
- Basil leaves
- The night before, soak the white beans in plenty of cold water.
- Bring a large volume of water to a boil, and cook the beans for about 45 minutes.
- In a pot, sweat the onion and garlic in hot olive oil, then add the tomatoes, and after a few minutes the other vegetables and pre-cooked white beans.
- Then moisten with the water and cook over medium heat, covered 30 minutes. Uncover, add the pasta and cook 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce over low heat if necessary.
- When ready to serve, drizzle a little olive oil, sprinkle with grated parmesan and add some basil leaves.