Minestrone Alla Lombarda

Lombard Minestrone

This is the original ‘big soup’ – so stiff it is almost solid cold – containing lots of fresh vegetables, rice and Parmesan cheese to nourish and satisfy.

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, scraped and very finely chopped
  • 2 courgettes, finely sliced
  • 3 floury potatoes, peeled and left whole
  • 450 g (1 lb) ripe tomatoes
  • 50 g (2 oz) pork dripping
  • a handful of fresh parsley, washed and very finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 leaves fresh sage
  • 50 g ( oz) streaky green bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 strips pork belly, cut into fine cubes
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 225 g (8 oz) fresh borlotti beans (or 115 g (4 oz) dried – soaked overnight and brought back to the boil twice)
  • 225 g (8 oz) shelled peas (frozen, only if you really have no alternative)
  • ¼ cabbage, leaves coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon tomato paste
  • 200 g (7 oz) rice or small size pasta
  • salt and pepper
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil

Method

Prepare and mix the celery, carrots, courgettes and potatoes. Dip the tomatoes in boiling water. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, discarding the seeds, quickly peel, then chop them.

Put the dripping, parsley and garlic in a 3 litre ( pint) soup pot and mix well. Add the chopped onion, sage leaves, bacon and pork belly. Pry together very carefully until the onion is mushy and transparent, add all the prepared vegetables, except the peas and cabbage, then the basil, beans and tomato paste.

Pour in 3 litres (5 pints) cold water, cover and simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. If at the end of this time the potatoes have not disintegrated into tiny bits, mash them in with a fork to thicken the soup.

If using shelled peas, add them to the soup. After 15 minutes, add the cabbage leaves. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the rice or pasta, with the frozen peas, if using. Cook rice for 20 minutes or pasta according to the manufacturers’ instructions. Stir and taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve hot in the winter time with olive oil to drizzle over the surface and Parmesan cheese in a bowl to sprinkle on to taste. In the summertime the soup is eaten cold, but not chilled. If wished, let the soup set in individual bowls overnight, then turn it out on to plates, but always serve it with olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

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