Minestrone recipe – easily adapted to whatever you have in your fridge

Ingredients

2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely sliced
4 carrots, finely chopped
4 rashers bacon, finely chopped (simply leave out for a vegetarian version)
4 tbs olive oil, for frying
800g tin of tomatoes, finely chopped with juice reserved
2 bay leaves
8 cups of water
½ tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 vegetable stock cubes
1 extra large potato, peeled and cut into medium-sized blocks
1 cup rosmarino pasta (i.e rice-shaped pasta or any other small pasta shape)
4 zucchini, finely sliced (i.e courgette)
2 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
1 large bunch Swiss chard, washed and roughly chopped (Woolworths stocks convenient ready-washed packs of chard)
1 x 400g tin cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup grated parmesan
extra salt, to taste
basil leaves, for serving
extra parmesan, for serving

How to
Grab your largest stock/soup pot. Add the olive oil to it and gently fry the onion, celery, carrot and bacon until it starts softening – about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and juice. Roughly crush the bay leaves to help release their marvellous aromatic oils and add to the soup along with the water, salt, pepper, stock cubes and potato. Cover and cook over low heat until the potato is almost cooked through.

Then add the pasta, zucchini, cabbage and chard and cook until the pasta is done – about 10 minutes. Add a bit of extra water if needed. (You could add the cabbage a touch earlier if you want, but I particularly loathe that alarming rotten egg smell and taste that well-cooked cabbage develops, hence the later addition.)

Stir in the cannellini beans and parmesan and cook for a further minute or two just to get the heat back up. Taste for salt – you will need to add some, but how much you add will depend on the salt level of the stock cubes you used. (Salt police be damned, remember that salt radically affects the flavour perception of a dish. As a rule of thumb if something tastes ‘flat’, like it needs ‘just a little something’ but you don’t know what, chances are it needs salt!)

Serve this minestrone scattered generously with basil leaves, a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and parmesan on the side for everyone to grate over extra.

Recipe by Lizet Hartley, courtesy of Melkkos & Merlot, a bilingual blog about food.

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