Hello, people!!! It’s THEME WEEK again! And it’s all about SOUPS! Asian soups, Western soups, Italian soups, Japanese soups….as much as I can conjure up in my humble kitchen. To kick off, we have the underrated minestrone, well…I think it’s underrated because it’s mainly vegetables….not the most attractive thing for kids and adults alike. Even I was guilty of such perception till I tried making it myself and now I’m forever hooked.
Let me explain my initial aversion to this dish first….I never had a good experience with any dish I ordered in restaurants that has some sort of tomato-based soup, like Borscht or Goulash although it’s funny because Borscht is suppose to be beets instead. Anyways….it always taste like someone just mixed ketchup into water. I thought that was going to happen to me too so I avoided any dishes that uses tomatoes in the soup.
But for the sake of experimenting and to break away from old mindsets….I set about trying to make the tastiest minestrone I can create. And I also wish to get my family into expecting vege nights and not ask, ‘Where’s the MEAT?’ The first is to make a tasty vege stock. Main rule of thumb for soups, if the stock is good, the rest would follow.
And to keep my minestrone fairly simple because I want it to cook fast, I left out vegetables that might take a long simmering time like carrots, potatoes or celery. Besides, the stock itself has carrots and celery so I figured I don’t have to add it into the final concoction. Instead, I chose courgettes, leeks and spinach because they take less time to cook through.
Of course the soup was made even more flavourful by rendering bacon fat. So I can’t say it’s 100% vegetables but adding bacon to minestrone is quite common. If you’re worried about the dish not being able to satisfy your fill, there’s pre-cooked macaroni added to it (pre-cooked just means, cooked separately and then added to the minestrone later on, I do this because I was worried cooking the macaroni in the minestrone might suck up all the broth, but you don’t have to take this separate step if you don’t want to).
The first taste was a huge, huge pleasant surprise and needless to say, the soup went rather quickly. it’s hearty, it’s filling and comforting. Just perfect for the wet season happening right now.
2 leeks, chopped (the ones I used were thin and long and therefore needed 2, but if you manage to get a thick one, then 1 would suffice)
6 rashers bacon, sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
About 3 litres vegetable stock
Green and yellow courgettes, small dices
A can of low sodium diced tomatoes
Half a small can of tomato paste
A bunch of baby spinach
Pre-cooked macaroni pasta (or use any small pastas)
Grated Parmesan Cheese
1. In a deep, large pan or wok pan, render the sliced bacon in some olive oil till they’re crisp. Dish up the bacon but leave the fat in the pan. Add your chopped leeks, onions and garlic and sautee till they’re soft.
2. Add your diced tomatoes, drained of it’s liquid from the can and cook with the leeks. Pour in all your vegetable stock. Add your tomato paste and stir till everything is incorporated together. Bring the soup to a boil. Add your basil, oregano and crisp bacon and season with salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 15 mins covered.
3. Taste your broth and adjust the seasoning where necessary.
4. Grate a little parmesan cheese into the broth. Italians like to use this method to ‘season’ their dishes. Make sure you have your pre-cooked pasta ready, cook them just al-dente.
5. Add your courgettes and let it cook for 10 mins with the lid on.
6. When the courgettes are soft but not mushy, turn the heat off. Add your macaroni into the soup and your bunch of spinach on top to let it wilt. You don’t even need to let it cook all the way through.
7. Dish up and eat with more grated parmesan on top. Eat while it’s warm with garlic bread or pesto!