As soon as those first chilly mornings of Autumn hit, I find myself craving the comforting warmth that only comes from a bowl of hearty vegetable soup. But not just any vegetable soup, a beautiful bowl of blushing red Minestrone soup.
This is one of those recipes that has been with me for quite some time, often changing and morphing depending on the season and what is left in my fridge’s crisper.
I remember when I was a child, my mother would make Minestrone soup in the depths of winter and we would often eat it huddled around the heater wrapped up in warm blankets.
It wasn’t until I left home and found myself craving the comforting goodness, that I decided to search out the recipe. I remember asking mum one day what her recipe for the soup was, and as many good family recipes seem to be, the answer was a little of this, a little of that and I adjust until it tastes right.
So, I decided to do a little research, and discovered that everyone seemed to have their own version of this hearty soup.
The one thing they had in common… They all seemed to follow the same idea of using what was in season and what was available in their pantries. So I began trialling different variations of the recipes I came across, doing as my mother did, adjusting a little here and a little there, tweaking them, until I found my sweet spot of soup tastiness.
Now, it was at this point that I thought I had it. I had the soup down to a fine art and I was pretty happy with the flavour balance…. and then we up and went to Italy and I experienced Minestrone in a little taverna/trattoria in La Spezia. My tastebuds were not prepared for how flavourful the Minestrone soup was there, with such depth of flavour and harmony… It completely blew my sad attempts at Italian cooking out of the water!
Upon returning to Australia, I made it my mission to recreate a Minestrone blend of memories. A Minestrone based on my comforting family memories, crossed with my travel memories and what felt like the essence of Italian flavour in a bowl.
I present to you, my Hearty Minestrone. May it become one of your family favourites too!
CRISPER DRAWER MINESTRONE
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 potatoes, diced
1/2 small capsicum, diced
400g can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze
2 tbsp tomato relish
5 leaves of silverbeet or kale, roughly chopped
750ml water + an extra 500ml water
1. Place oil, onion, carrot and parsley in a large heavy based stock pot and gently fry together until the onion becomes transparent.
2. Add the potatoes, garlic and capsicum and fry for a further few minutes. The bottom of the pot should start getting brown caramelised build up on it.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes, herbs, salt, balsamic vinegar, tomato relish and 250ml water. Mix together well, using the liquid to deglaze the pan, ensuring all the delicious caramelised flavour is mixed into everything. Add an extra 500ml of water and bring to the boil.
4. Boil for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature and lightly simmer for a further 45 minutes, allowing the mixture to intensify in flavour. *The liquid levels should approximately halve.
5. After the mixture has been cooking for an hour, add the roughly chopped silverbeet or kale and an extra 500ml of water and cook for a further 15 minutes, allowing the silverbeet to wilt and all the flavours to combine.
This is the perfect soup to set and forget on a cold winters day. To be honest, it is my favourite Sunday soup – it lets me use up the last of the sad veggies sitting in my crisper before my weekly shop, and will sit happily in the fridge for a few days, improving in flavour each day. It really is the soup that keeps giving! Mangiare!