For a summer meal, soup is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But it’s in the summer that we have the best local vegetables and that the body needs fewer calories and more hydration. A soup can actually make for a great summer dish, especially if served lukewarm.
This recipe is for a ‘minestra di verdure’, a soup of unstrained vegetables (and legumes), which can optionally contain pasta or rice. The well known ‘minestrone’ is just a kind of minestra, usually richer and thicker. In a ‘passato di verdura‘, instead, the vegetables are strained after cooking, either by hand or by using a food mill. The term ‘zuppa’ generically refers to any kind of soup, including broths.
Soups are considered by many as the simplest dishes to make, but making a good soup is not trivial. The ingredients have to be balanced, bringing the right amounts of sweet, salty and sour to the dish, and the right amount of fats. In a minestra, the texture and the appearance are also important – the ingredients need to remain distinct despite the prolonged cooking necessary for the flavor to develop.
Italian soups are sometimes served with a sprinkle of Parmigiano, or with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, and they may be accompanied by ‘crostini di pane’ (bread croutons).
Minestre can be made of countless vegetables and legumes combinations. Here is the recipe for the minestra in the picture above.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 2 sticks celery, finely diced
- 3 or 4 leaves kale, coarsely sliced (a good replacement for 'cavolo nero')
- 3 or 4 leaves cabbage, coarsely sliced
- 2 small potatoes, diced
- 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 4 cups water
- salt and pepper
- 4 slices of hard crust bread, toasted and sliced
- Stir fry the onion, carrot and the celery in olive oil at medium heat for 10 minutes until tender.
- Add the water, the kale, the cabbage, the potatoes and the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and lower the heat.
- Cook for a couple of hours, stirring from time to time. Ensure that the minestra simmers slowly and doesn't over-boil.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with bread croutons and a drizzle of olive oil (optional).
For a more filling minestra, 10-15 minutes before it's ready, add 80 grams (3 oz) of rice or small pasta (ditalini, quadretti, stelline, avemarie or regular spaghetti cut in small pieces) and ensure a steady boil.
7 thoughts on “Summer Minestra”
Very nice! I actually make soups year round, using vegetables in seasons and legumes. We have cool evenings in the summer, which make you crave warm soup. Love the photo.
Thanks Simona 🙂
Minestrone and passato are one of the two things I really cannot stand. The other one is platessa fillets. I have to say that you make it look enticing enough that I might think about giving it another shot…
Ah! I see your point. I hated soups and plaice too, but in the last few years I reconsidered on the soups – I still can't stand plaice and sole! Let me know if you decide to give it a shot, I also make a yummy potato-leek passato – but that's definitely for winter 🙂
I love soups and ate many during the summer as a little girl in Rome. My grandmother made them with pasta or rice–minestrone, brodo vegetale, pasta e patate, riso e zucchine, riso e cavolo. For the brodo vegetale she would cook peeled potatoes and carrots whole in the broth and then take them out at the end, chop them up and fry them as our secondo. Delicious.
Thanks Lisa for sharing such a personal memory. It's very interesting your grandma's technique to make a vegetable broth to use as a base for soups, without leaving the boiled vegetables in it. I suppose this gives a tasty clear broth and very clean flavors – love it!
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