Every time I make minestrone, I wonder why I don’t make it more often. Most probably because we're not just into eating soup that much, but, God, it is good. Made with home made stock and some good old beans (in this recipe, I actually used thawed beans I had from a time when I had over boiled them). iI just disappeared in silence, everyone loving or pretending to love it (I hope the former).
If you have any smoked salt or even smoked sugar to give a bit of that sweetness, especially if the tomatoes are not that sweet, use it. A pinch of one or the other makes such a difference. Coming from a country where we just love smoking everything, and sometimes I think we could smoke out kids too, smoke runs in our blood. And I am no exception since my parents ate smoked pork and chicken all the time, and I did too, especially living in the countryside, where smoking pork in the fall was the only way to preserve them. Entering the house was the hardest thing: just on the left there was a chamber where all the smoked meat hung. So yes, from time to time, I love to add smokiness to my food, but nowadays, in the form of few pieces of smoked meat or smoked salt. As I did in this minestrone.
3 tbsp mild extra virgin olive oil
40 g celery stalks, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
70 g peeled carrots, finely chopped
1 large sprig rosemary, leaves finely chopped
leaves from 5 sprigs thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp tomato paste
400 g tomatoes in their own juices
2 l vegetable stock
150 g fregola sarda or any small pasta you like
240 g canned and drained Borlotti beans
sea salt to taste or if you have, smoked salt (it just makes the greatest difference)
freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil to serve
50 - 70 g Parmesan, finely grated
Place the oil, garlic, celery, carrots, thyme, rosemary, fennel seeds, and bit of salt in the kettle, and warm on a low heat until the oil starts to bubble a bit. Then continue to sauté on the same low heat for 15 minutes. Then, turn up the heat, add paste, and fry for a bit so that the paste starts to release its aroma.
Add canned tomatoes and continue to cook for around 5-7 minutes so that the tomatoes reduce a bit. Add stock, stir, and boil for 10 minutes. In the meantime boiling the pasta until it is ready (in another kettle). Drain pasta, add to the soup together with beans, and boil for 10 – 15 more minutes (even 20 – 25, if you have time, so that the flavours do their trick).
Serve with a splash of olive oil, handful of Parmesan, and, if you want, add some chilli oil or chilli flakes.
Recipe and pictures: Signe Meirane
Camera: Sony Alpha 7s