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.