Livorno Minestrone

Minestrone alla Livornese

The word minestrone actually means ‘big soup’ - in other words, one which contains lots of different ingredients and is power-packed for larger appetites! This particular recipe comes from the bustling port of Livorno, where ferries and cargo boats come and go amongst the everlasting atmosphere of rich medieval history, and where the surrounding fertile countryside yields much of the wide variety of vegetables that are required to make it. Use fresh beans if at all possible.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450 g) fresh or 8 oz (225 g) dried cannellini or borlotti beans
  • ¼ savoy cabbage
  • 5 oz (150 g) fresh spinach
  • 6 leaves Swiss chard or dark green lettuce leaves
  • 2 oz (50 g) prosciutto crudo or unsmoked fat back bacon
  • 1 oz (25 g) parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, scraped and cut into thin strips
  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 courgette, cut into thin strips
  • 1 potato, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 1 stick celery, cut into thin strips
  • 2 strips belly pork, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée, diluted with 1 ladleful very hot water
  • pints (2 litres) meat stock or broth
  • salt
  • 9 oz (250 g) long-grain rice
  • 2 heaped tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Method

If you are using dried beans, cover them with cold water and soak overnight. Then drain and wash them. Boil them twice for 5–10 minutes, draining and washing them in between each boiling. Then cover them in fresh cold water, cover them tightly and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. If you are using fresh beans, shell them, cover with cold water and simmer for 1 hour or until tender.

Wash and trim the green vegetables, then shred them all together. Place in a saucepan with a little water and cook until just soft. Remove from the heat, cool and then squeeze dry in your fists.

Chop the prosciutto or bacon and place it in a big cast-iron pan with the parsley and the garlic. Fry together gently for about 5 minutes. (You don’t need to add extra oil - the fat from the prosciutto is enough.)

Add the green vegetables to the prosciutto, parsley and garlic, stir together, then add all the other vegetables, the belly pork and the beans. Stir in the diluted tomato purée, all the stock or broth and simmer for about 2 hours, covered. Check the seasoning and add salt if required.

After about 2 hours, add the rice, stir well and continue to cook for about 15–20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Remove from the heat, stir in the Parmesan and serve hot or cold, but not chilled.

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