Freefrom Anna’s del Conte's Minestrone
Wheat, gluten, corn, soya, nut & egg free; can be dairy free
Anna del Conte is the ultimate Italian food writer - encylopaedically knowledgeable, a wonderful cook - and the most lovely person. So, when I wanted a recipe for minestrone, where else would I turn?
The recipe below came originally from her Secrets from an Italian Kitchen but has re-appeared in Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes, Vintage Books’ recent compendium of her earlier works. This is her introduction taken from the original recipe and, as the tasters at the milk tasting will confirm, the recipe, followed to the letter, makes the most delicious minestrone in the world.
You can buy all of Anna's books here on Amazon in the UK and here on Amazon in the US.
The pesto that is added at the end gives this minestrone a particularly Mediterranean taste. The soup is made only with olive oil and it is prepared a crudo, meaning that all the elements are put together at the same time in the pan when still raw, a much healthier method than first sauté-ing them.
The quantities here are for 8 people because minestrone is better made in a large quantity. It is even more delicious warmed up one or two days later. Minestrone keeps well in the refrigerator for up to three days, but it cannot be frozen. Add the pasta and the pesto, in the right proportions, to the amount of soup you want to eat at one meal and chill the rest. You can either serve the left over minestrone with rice instead of pasta, or just as it is, without the pesto, as a zuppa di verdura - a vegetable soup.
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 celery sticks with their green leaves, stringed and cut into small pieces
2 carrots, cut in 12 mm / 1/2" cubes
2 medium potatoes, cut into 12mm / 1/2" cubes
110g / 4oz shelled peas
110g / 4oz French (green) beans, topped and tailed and cut into 2.5cm / 1" pieces
200g / 7oz beet spinach, shredded
a few outside leaves of a round or cos lettuce, shredded
2 medium-sized courgettes (zucchini) cut into 12mm / 1/2" cubes
225g / 8oz ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and coarsely chopped, or tinned plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 litres vegetable stock or water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g / 5oz tubular pasta, gluten/wheat free if required
freshly grated parmesan (optional)
30g / 1oz fresh basil leaves
30g / 1oz flat leafed parsley
1 garlic clove, peeled
30ml / 1fl oz extra virgin olive oil
Put the oil, all the vegetables, garlic and stock in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Cook uncovered for 11/2 hours or so over a very low heat. The soup should just simmer, not boil.
Taste and add salt, if necessary, and the pepper.
Add the pasta and continue to cook until ready. The soup should be very thick (the Genovese say you should be able to stand a spoon up in it, but if it is too thick add a little water before you add the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, put the basil leaves, parsley and garlic in a mortar and pound with a circular movement. Add the oil and pound to a paste. Alternatively make the pesto in a food processor.
When the pasta is cooked al dente, turn off the heat and mix in the pesto. Add pepper to taste and leave the soup to rest for about two minutes.
Serve, handing round the parmesan, if you are using it, in a bowl.
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