Monday, November 15, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Early Autumn Minestrone

They say that every Italian wife worth her salt can whip up a minestrone with her eyes closed.
I ain't there yet.

Fortunately, I found a great recipe from Jamie Oliver. Love him.
A friend just showed me his iPhone application. What a rabbit hole that was...

Anyway, the irony in using a British guy's minestrone to validate my position as a proper Italian wife is not lost on me. But I made some adjustments to take out some of the steps that the Bear says "a real Italian would never do" (while also quietly ignoring the call for rashers/bacon) and, as usual, there wasn't a drop of it left on his plate.

So between me and the Brit, we must be doing something right!

Photo by David Loftus

"Italianized" by the Bear and "Veganized" by me
(serves 4-6)

Gather the following:

• 200g cannellini or borlotti beans*
• 1 bay leaf* (optional)
• 1 tomato, squashed* (optional)
• 1 small potato, peeled* (optional)

• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• olive oil
• 2 small red onions, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 small potatoes
• 2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
• ½ a head of fennel, chopped
• 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

• a small bunch of fresh basil (leaves and stalks separated**)
• 2 x 400g tins (or 14-15oz cans) of good-quality plum tomatoes
• two glasses of red wine (one for the soup and one for me!)
• 2 small courgettes (zucchini), quartered and sliced
• 200g chard or spinach, washed and roughly sliced (including stalks)
• 565ml (about 2-1/2 cups) vegetable stock, preferably organic
• 55g dried pasta (about 1 cup)

*Ok, so this is the main part we ditched. Neither of us are fans of throwing away perfectly edible food that's used to "flavour" something. I also didn't have fresh, dried beans handy. So I bought a bottle and cut 30 minutes off my time. Win-win.

Otherwise, start making your soffrito by heating a good splash of olive oil in a saucepan and adding the chopped onions, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic and the finely sliced basil stalks.

**This is another thing the Bear swears a real Italian would never do - we threw it all in, stalks, leaves and all. You're supposed to sweat the veggies, not the details, right?

Anyway, saute whatever ends up in the pot very slowly on a low heat, with the lid just ajar, for around 15 to 20 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add the tomatoes, courgettes and one glass of red wine. Simmer gently for 15 minutes...and enjoy the second glass yourself.

Then add the chard or spinach, veggie stock and beans.

At this point Jamie suggests putting the dried pasta into a polythene bag, squeezing all the air out, tying the end up, and "bashing gently" with a rolling pin to break the pasta into pieces. Personally, if I want to bash something, it's not going to be gentle and that whole process sounded waaaaay to complicated when there is a plethora of different pastas available in my local market. I opted to use some organic Sicilian gomitini (tiny little macaroni).

Whatever you choose, put it the soup, stir it up and continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked.

If you think the soup is looking too thick, add a little more stock. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve it sprinkled with the torn-up basil leaves and some extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the top.

It was good. Really good. So good, in fact, that the Bear almost forgot to smother it with fresh Parmesan.

Oh well,  you can't win 'em all...

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