When I was around five years old, one of my aunts was dating an Italian fellow named Dominic. One day, Dominic asked me the unusual question, “What is your favourite kind of soup?” To which I replied without hesitation, “Minestrone”. Which was true, it really was my favourite, even if I had only ever tasted the canned variety. My answer got a good laugh – in truth, I think it was a set-up. What, a five-year-old can’t have sophisticated soup preferences?
Since then, I have been lucky enough to try a wide variety of delicious soups that were not readily available to me in childhood, and this makes it pretty difficult to choose only one as my absolute favourite. Minestrone is right up there in the fray, however, and always will be. The recipe below is an amalgamation of various recipes I have seen over the years, with some personal tweaks.
The last time I cooked this, my daughter loved it so much she practically climbed right in the bowl, and refused to eat anything else I had prepared for dinner. Apparently some apples do not fall far from the tree…
4 slices cooked ham, chopped in roughly 1 inch chunks
3 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed or roughly chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1 celery stalk or small chunk root celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage (savoy if you can get it)
3 or4 cups chicken stock
3 or 4 cups beef stock
one 24 oz tin canned tomatoes
1 cup red wine
one 14 oz tin kidney beans, drained
2 cups shaped, dry pasta (my kids like wagon wheels)
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
One handful fresh parsley or 2 tbsp dried
1 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat oil/butter over medium heat in stock pot and sauté the ham briefly, just to season the oil/butter. Add all vegetables except corn and potatoes and sauté until they begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
Add stocks, wine, tomatoes, potatoes and all seasonings. Adjust amount of stock depending on how thick you like your soup. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
Meanwhile, bring a separate pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
When soup has simmered 20 minutes, add corn and kidney beans. Simmer another 10 minutes.
Place about a half cup of cooked pasta in each soup bowl and cover with soup. Garnish with parmesan cheese. Buon appetito!