Minestrone Primavera

Spring Minestrone

This is an absolutely classic minestrone using seasonal vegetables, a pulse (in this case cannellini beans), a pasta (ditali) and finished with pesto. The method and sequence of cooking are fundamental: follow them step by step and the dish works. You can substitute different vegetables in different seasons. The pesto is not an authentic touch; it comes from the Nice region of France, which was originally part of the Kingdom of Savoy.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 2 celery sticks, strings removed
  • 6 courgettes, topped and tailed
  • 12 medium asparagus stalks, peeled
  • 1 small head broccoli
  • 4 plum tomatoes, skinned and diced
  • 1 kg peas in pod, podded (100 g frozen)
  • 1 kg broad beans in pod, podded (100 g frozen)
  • 500 g cooked cannellini beans (tinned will do)
  • good olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 300 g ditali Pesto

Method

Cut the onion, carrots, celery and courgettes into 5 mm dice. Keep them separate. Cut the asparagus stalks into 1 cm lengths. Peel the broccoli stems and dice; cut the heads into small florets. In a wide, heavy-bottomed pan or casserole heat 4 tbsp olive oil over a medium heat. Add the celery, carrot and onion and sweat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly coloured. This mixture of celery, carrot and onion is known as soffritto, and is the holy trinity of Italian cuisine.

Add the remaining vegetables and garlic, excluding the cannellini beans. Sweat for a further 10 minutes (you may need a little more oil). Season with salt and pepper, stir and add enough water to just cover the solids. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender (the carrots will be the judge of that).

Meanwhile blanch the ditali in boiling salted water for 4 minutes. Refresh in cold water and dress very lightly with olive oil to keep the pieces separate.

When the vegetables are tender, add the beans and pasta and simmer for 5 minutes. The soup is ready. Offer pesto for your guests to add to the soup.

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