Minestrone alla Genovese with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan
by eat in my kitchen
A minestrone simmering on the cooker puts me a into a comfortable mood, the smell and taste reminds me of the kitchens of all the great cooks in my family and it makes me feel at home! I’m very lucky as I’m surrounded by a few women who have mastered the art of a good minestrone.
My Maltese granny Edith cooks her vegetable soup with courgette, marrows and potatoes and I learnt from her that a little parmesan sprinkled on top makes all the difference. The cheese melts into the warming broth and adds a hearty touch to it. My mother goes with the seasons and uses whatever her vegetable garden offers. Beans, cabbage, peas, potatoes, carrots, the list is long and inspiring. She walks through her garden with a big basket in her hand and picks the fruits and vegetables that fit her mood. She taught me to chop everything into small cubes and blanch each vegetable in the broth separately. This way you avoid some vegetables becoming too soggy and soft while others stay crunchy. I don’t always do this, sometimes I cook it all at once, it depends on the texture I want to achieve.
My minestrone never tastes the same, I like to try out new variations and this one was inspired by the north of Italy, the Minestrone alla Genovese! This warming soup is so rich in flavours, cooked with cabbage, dried butter beans, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, fennel, tomatoes, celery and leak, I listened to both women to be rewarded with a very satisfying result, I chopped the vegetables into little cubes which would have pleased my mother but I cooked them all at once for not more than 20 minutes. I just cooked the soaked dried butter beans separately as they needed about an hour. After I filled my flavourful soup into the plates, I scattered some parsley leaves and grated parmesan over it, thanks to Edith!
When I cook minestrone, I cook lots of it as I like to put a few portions in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner. Once the chopping is done, it just needs another half an hour, so you might as well prepare a bit more. You could also add some little pasta like Anellini or Risini to make the dish a bit richer.
Minestrone alla Genovese
For a large pot of around 4l / 8.5 pints of minestrone (for about 8-12 people) you need
big dried butter beans, soaked over night, 200g / 7 ounces
large onion, chopped, 1
white cabbage, cut into small cubes, 200g / 7 ounces
carrots, cut into small cubes, 150g / 5.5 ounces
zucchini, cut into small cubes, 150g / 5.5 ounces
leak, cut into small cubes, 100g / 3.5 ounces
potatoes, cut into small cubes, 200g / 7 ounces
fennel bulb, cut into small cubes, 100g / 3.5 ounces
large celery stalk, cut into small cubes, 1
large tomatoes, cut into small cubes, 2
broth, hot, 2.8l / 6 pints
garlic, crushed, 3 cloves
bay leaf 1
salt and pepper
parmesan, grated, for the topping
fresh parsley leaves, a handful, for the topping
In a large pot, cook the soaked beans for about an hour or until al dente, drain and set aside.
In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat till golden and soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add a little more oil and the chopped vegetables, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the hot broth, the beans and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes. Season to taste and serve sprinkled with parmesan and parsley.