Minestrone

I’ve been working away for a few weeks recently, just coming home for long weekends. Before I started working away I tried to use up as much food as possible from the fridge, to avoid waste and save money on shopping. Like most people I know I often find myself throwing fresh food away and, like most people, I really hate doing this. It’s one of my new year resolutions to cut down on food waste by being more organised and resourceful.

I have quite a few recipes up my sleeve to use up all the odd bits and pieces in the back of the fridge. It’s surprisingly satisfying to look into a bare fridge knowing you have used up the food, cut down on waste (and can now go shopping for a whole new batch of fresh food).

Soup is perfect for using up food because just about anything goes. As long as you have two or three vegetables, and ideally a potato or two for thickening, you can make a nourishing and tasty soup which often doesn’t even need any stock – I regularly use plain water for the liquid (although I also tend to have vegetable and chicken stock in the freezer anyway).

Soup is so cheap and easy to make. Having home made soup on hand for a first course means you don’t want to eat so much for the main course – so food bills are cheaper overall. Perhaps we should all have a ‘soup of the day’.

Minestrone is particularly nourishing because it’s so filling. It really is a meal in itself. For this recipe I used a can of haricot beans but any beans would do – and of course beans aren’t absolutely necessary anyway.

This is a vegan version of minestrone (if you leave out the Parmesan garnish) as it uses vegetable stock (although you could make it with water as it is quite tomatoey) and no bacon. But I have to be honest and say I prefer minestrone cooked with a rasher or two of bacon, or pancetta, which I would do as the very first step in the recipe, before cooking the onions.

The following ingredients can be adjusted to whatever you have in stock – the quantities are a bit rough and ready because I didn’t weigh everything,  I was just throwing everything in.  It made a big saucepan full – about six servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 courgette, chopped
  • Handful of cavolo nero leaves (or other greens), stalks removed and chopped
  • Tin of haricot beans
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • 1 large potato, scrubbed and cubed
  • Litre of vegetable stock
  • Small handful of spaghetti
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese as garnish (omit for a vegan version)

Method

  1. Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions and garlic and cook gently for a few minutes before adding the carrots, celery, courgette and potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring regularly.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes, haricot beans and stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes with the lid on.
  3. Add the cavolo nero and snap the spaghetti into the pan. Bring back to the boil. Turn the heat down slightly and cook for about six to 10 minutes, until the spaghetti is cooked.
  4. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

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