The frigid cold temperature that Montreal is experiencing this year does not want to let up; it has imbedded itself in our bones like two concrete slabs of the tallest skyscraper in the epicenter of our downtown streets. We have at least a few more weeks of winter left under our belts.
It is during these cold winter months that we all seek warm comfort food. For myself, nothing epitomizes comfort food more than a large bowl of soup or stew with a few slices of fresh country bread and butter to warm up my heart and soul on a cold winter’s day or night. It is during this time that I return to my roots and make a big stockpot of Minestrone Soup, like my mom used to make when we were growing up.
Minestrone is a thick soup of Italian Roman origin. Of course, there are many variations to this soup, but the original classic method consists of any types of vegetables (usually root vegetables) and some small pasta noodles or rice.
Considered a poor man soup, it is derived from whatever was leftover in the pantry at the time, pooled together to make a meal. Usually, it contains a base of vegetable or chicken stock, tomatoes, potatoes, root vegetables, some meat and beans for protein
This modern day recipe various considerably from what my mom used to make and what her ancestors used to make as soup.
During the World War II in Italy, fresh vegetables or produce was limited, as the villagers were not able to go out on a daily basis to tend to their fields. What they had left over in the pantry was mostly foods left over from the winter harvest. My mom’s recipe truly derived from “cucina povera” and only contained sautéed garlic, onions, celery, potatoes, canned tomatoes and rice. It was more like a thick porridge, but it was delicious and comforting.
Over the years, we have reaped many more benefits and live in different times when all is available to us. This is my version of rich man’s Minestrone made with freshest ingredients from the Farmers Market or supermarket.
Here is my recipe with everything thrown into it. Enjoy!
Makes 8 servings
Prep Time: 2hrs
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. butter
1 large onion- diced
2 carrots- peeled and diced
2 parsnips-peeled and diced
½ rutabaga-peeled and diced
2 celery stalks- diced
2 medium potatoes diced
½ lb string beans- cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups water
6 c. Chicken or vegetable stock
1 – (16 oz) can of whole tomatoes
1 tbsp. Beef Bovril ** or beef flavoured bouillon cube
½ head of cabbage-shredded
½ (10 oz bag) fresh baby spinach
2 medium zucchini diced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 can each (16 oz) white beans and red kidney beans (option) ** ½ can each
½ c grated Pecorino Romano or Reggiano Parmesan cheese (whichever preferred)
**Slices Italian country bread- slightly grilled with olive oil
In a large stockpot heat olive oil and butter over medium heat.
Sauté onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, rutabaga, potatoes and green beans for about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add water, tomatoes, broth, beef Bovril, spinach, zucchini, cabbage, salt & pepper.
Increases stove temperature to high and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or till vegetables are tender, but not too soft.
Stir in red and white beans and cook for 20 minutes till soup is slightly thickened.
Serve in bowls, topped with grilled Italian bread sprinkled with cheese.
Note: ** For a thicker heartier soup, you can add, 3/4 cup small pasta noodles, or pieces of diced sautéed beef cubes, or Italian sausage (removed from casing and sautéed in oil).
Just add 2 cups more water or stock to stockpot.