Tuscan Minestra

Styling: Anita Parise 
Blog: Anita Parise and Renee Lenzarini
Photography: Anita Parise 
Recipe & Inspiration: Winter warmers – Hooray for perfect pasta weather!

There is nothing that warms the heart and soul more than a plate of pasta… except for maybe a bowl of soup. Like in most Italian households, as a young child, I remember that there would always be a large pot of minestra simmering on the stove at this time of year.  It is said that a nourishing bowl of minestra can:

  1. prevent you from getting una rafreddore (common cold) by boosting your immune system
  2. help soothe the severity of cold and flu symptoms
  3. increase your body temperature to warm you from the inside-out

The word minestra – like most Italian words – has a simple yet sensible origin.  Deriving from the Latin word ministrare – which means to administer or distribute – a minestra was any type of food ‘handed out’ from a single bowl or pot by the head of the family.

As a staple of cucina povera, minestra is a dish known throughout Italy.  Although you will find regional varieties, the fundamental ingredients are the same.  There is nothing more comforting than having a big bowl of minestra for lunch or dinner regardless of the potential ‘medicinal’ benefits.  Let’s be clear though… this is not a soup.  Unlike a soup, which can be quite thin in consistency, this is a hearty dish, made with vegetables that contain thickening ingredients like legumes, potatoes, pasta and even rice.

A traditional Tuscan vegetable minestra includes the ingredients celery, carrots, onion, potatoes, kale (I mean it is called Tuscan kale for a reason), zucchini, cannellini beans (Tuscans are huge bean eaters), chilli and parsley.  You could also use other green alternatives such as spinach, cabbage or silver beet. Although it adds brilliant colour flavour and texture, silverbeet does have a high sodium content, so be careful when seasoning. We have chosen to use a classic brodo di pollo but you could also use a vegetable stock.

We would highly recommend the addition of GR’s raviolini (baby ravioli).  If you’d like to try a short cut pasta, ditalini, macaroni, or conchiglie are our favourites.  And if you have a few strands of GR’s fresh fettuccine left… cut them up into tiny squares!

Various versions of this minestra recipe is always a go to in my house – especially during the winter months.  Not only economical but so fast and easy to prepare.  This is a dish that you can prepare over several days with minimal effort and can you quite easily double the quantity for freezing.  What’s even better is that a heart warming minestra with pasta is both delicious and healthy.  While reheated leftovers the next day are even more satisfying.

Stay healthy over this cold and flu season clubbers,

Anita, Renee and the GR team

Ingredients

  • ½ onion, chopped finely
  • 2 carrots, chopped finely
  • 3 sticks of celery, chopped finely
  • Extra virgin olive oil for sauteing
  • 2 potatoes, chopped finely
  • 1 Ltr chicken stock + 300ml of water
  • 1 cup (or tin) of cannellini beans washed and drained
  • ½ bunch of kale (stems removed), chopped
  • ½ bunch of spinach
  • ½ bunch of parsley chopped
  • 1 long red chilli (optional)

Method

  • Place the diced onion, carrot, celery and potatoes into a soup pot with a little extra virgin olive oil. Sautee until slightly softened. Add stock and water and cook for approximately 25-30 minutes.
  • Add Beans, kale, spinach and zucchini and cook for a further 20 minutes. (Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed). Cook until the kale is tender (a further 15-20 minutes).
  • Remove from heat and add the parsley and stir through.
  • Ladle the soup into deep bowls and top with fresh chilli and grated Parmesan.
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