Like most people I tend to think of Minestrone as a winter kind of thing. A hearty vegetable soup, served piping hot and full of winter vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, celery, carrots, leeks and potatoes. Yes, maybe some canned tomatoes work their way in there, and of course some parsley for brightness. But basically, a cold weather kind of soup. Even the vegetable vendors in the markets here in Rome, which sell prepped mixes made for minestrone, stop selling them once the weather turns warm.
But last week I had a minestrone that was as springy as it could get. Instead of a hearty soup full of over-cooked winter vegetables, it was a light broth dotted with distinct and firm signs of Spring. We enjoyed this new version of Minestrone at our welcome dinner for one of our Week in Rome tours. Our friend Amanda was supposed to be cooking the dinner, but unfortunately at the last minute got sick (she’s better now!). She had already done all of the shopping and so Sophie stepped in to prepare the Amanda-planned feast.
The recipe that follows is Amanda’s and was made 2 weeks ago. I’m being a bit specific about the date, since in Rome, this time of year is full of new vegetables each week which show up in the market. While Amanda included fresh fave beans in her instructions, I’m sure that she wouldn’t mind if I made this this evening with fresh peas and asparagus tips which have just shown up.
The trick is to add some of the vegetables at the very last minute, which provide not only a bit of crunch, but also that visual shot of green that screams spring. Also? I loved the fact that she used some artichoke leaves in her vegetable broth!
Sorry to say my photos don’t nearly give enough credit to how pretty this soup was. All I had was my iPhone in candle light. But I think you can get the idea pretty well. And I’ll throw in some ingredient photos to make up for it as well as our pretty table all set for Spring.
- For the Minestrone:
- 2-3 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 onion
- 4 small zucchine romanesche
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch Swiss chard- stems removed from leaves
- 1 kg fresh fava pods, remove beans from pods, and skins from beans
- Veggie broth (see recipe below)
- Parmigiano rind
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 cup Small pasta of your choice, quadretti, farfalline etc.
- Cut carrots, celery, onion, zucchini and Swiss chard stems into very small dice. Pour olive oil into pot large enough to hold the broth later. Saute the vegetables over low heat, adding salt to flavor the soup base and to draw out the liquid from the vegetables. Cook until just softened, about 15 minutes.
- Add broth, as well as water as needed. Sophie added an additional 2 cups of water, as well as a piece of the rind from the Parmigiano for extra flavor.
- Bring soup to a boil and add salt to taste, reduce flame to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes.
- In the meantime cook the pasta in a separate pot of boiling, salted water.
- In another small pot, cook the fave beans, for just 2 minutes, then plunge them into ice water to stop cooking and so that they remain green and vibrant. Set aside.
- Cut the Swiss chard leaves into ½ inch ribbons and just before serving. Turn off the flame after one minute.
- To serve:
- Plate some pasta and pour soup over. Top with fave beans.
- Top with grated Parmigiano, you can add fresh herbs of your choice for extra flavor (dill or basil)
- 2 carrots
- ½ potato
- 1 onion
- Leek trimmings
- Broccoli stem
- Artichoke leaves (1-2 handfuls)
- Cover vegetables with cold water and bring to a boil, simmer for about 45 minutes or until flavor has developed (made about 750mL of broth)