Soup’s On! Minestrone Heats Up the Autumn Chill

The sudden turn of weather from dry, crisp and sunny to overcast, damp and chilly has us all running for warmth and comfort. Soup is the natural cure all, and with the bounty of fall vegetables coming in to our local farm markets in leaps and bounds, there’s no better time to get out the stock pot and get cooking.
Minestrone, that thick and hearty vegetable-pasta-bean laden soup seemed like the right fit, for both mood and weather.

Italian of origin, minestrone literally means “big soup,” and is a cornerstone of the Italian table. In Genoa, recipes call for pesto and porcini, in Milan, onions and a protein such as pancetta or lardo are necessary.  In North America, we’ve all enjoyed a myriad of interpretations on the theme. Tomatoes are the norm, but not always. The addition of beans with pasta or without, it’s really not a big deal, unless you’re the Italian author and food scholar Angelo Pelligrini who insisted that the base of minestrone was bean broth from the Borlotti bean. The main point though is to take inspiration from the autumn harvest and make something colourful, flavourful and nourishing.
The base of my minestrone this time around was a soffritto, a slowly fried mixture of celery, onions and carrots that provides a deep, sweet base note before the addition of chicken stock along with a head of sliced garlic, chopped tomatoes, broccoli leaves and their stalks, corn off the cob, cabbage, parsley, sage and basil.

Brought to the boil and simmered for an hour of so, luscious aromas filled the air and the flavours murged into an earthy comforting concoction. Borlotti beans were added at the last – canned is really okay – and each deep bowl of soup is treated to a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil and sprinkling of parmesan. Not necessary, maybe a tad authentic in some circles, but welcome just the same.


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