Best Ever Minestrone
This classic soup is a great big bowl of warming comfort in the cooler months. I’ve had some pretty ordinary thin and overly tomatoey minestrones in my time, but this is something else. Bursting with delicious veg, not too over-cooked and soggy. The secret ingredient of the cheese rind does something amazing, so do not leave it out. I’ve never been organised enough to buy and use pork rind (I think you’d need to order this from your butcher) but I’m sure it would add another delicious dimension to the dish. I always use a couple of bacon rashers instead or you can leave them out for a vego option. Likewise, I’m too lazy to soak my own borlotti beans, so I used tinned and add them with the cabbage close to the end so they don’t go too soggy. As for the cheese rind, the next time you finish off a piece of Parmesan cheese, chop off the rind and put it in the freezer to keep it for the next time you make this delicious soup. It doesn’t need pasta or rice, it’s a meal in itself – absolute comfort food and good for you too. Make a double batch and freeze it for when you canne be bothered. I sell it to the boy as “stronee” rather than plain old soup and he bolts it down every time.
½ cup olive oil
3 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 x 200g piece pork rind, cut into 3 pieces (optional) or 2 pieces bacon, chopped
450g shelled borlotti beans or 1 x 400g tinned, rinsed and drained
rind from a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup tomato passata or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1½ litres good quality vegetable stock or water
1 cup finely shredded savoy cabbage
3 zucchini, diced
1 cup chopped green beans
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
freshly grated Parmesan, to serve
Heat the olive oil and butter in a stockpot until the butter is foaming, then add the onion and garlic. Cook gently until the onion has softened. Add the carrot, celery and pork rind or bacon and cook gently, turning the contents to coat all of the vegetables. After a further 5 minutes, add the borlotti beans (if using fresh), cheese rind, tomato passata and stock. Cover the pot and cook at a gentle simmer for 1½ hours.
Add the cabbage, zucchini and green beans (and borlotti beans if using tinned) and simmer for 30 minutes, then taste for seasoning. Discard the cheese crust before serving in wide soup bowls. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and grate Parmesan.