Minestrone Soup

There's really nothing better then a bowl of hot soup on a cold winters day.. I love minestrone because there is something so hearty and filling about it but when you think about it, it's really good for you! Packed with an array of delicious veggies, and if you're a bit more health conscious you can even omit the pasta, replace it with wholemeal pasta or pearl barley or whatever you like really!

I think a good minestrone actually takes a little bit of skill because you have to cut your veggies up attractively and you really need to time adding them to the pot so they don't overcook. I also cook the pasta separately and add it to the minestrone as I serve it because I think the starch makes the soup become gluggy- especially if you're refrigerating it for lunch or dinner tomorrow.

I put bacon in mine for a little bit of meat and saltiness (and because I believe bacon should be in everything), but if you want the vego option, just leave it out.

You will need... (For 8 generous serves)
1 brown onion
4 middle bacon rashers, fat trimmed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium sized carrot, peeled
3 celery sticks
1/2 red capsicum, seeds and membrane removed
2 large washed potato, peeled
2 large zucchini
3 tins Italian tomatoes
500ml chicken or vegetable stock (salt reduced)
1 tin cannelini (white) beans, drained and rinsed well
2 tbs olive oil
2 basil stalks
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano (or a sprig of fresh if you have it
1 bayleaf
300gr of green beans, trimmed and cut into small rounds
300gr cooked pasta (I prefer to use mini Conchiglie but you can use Farfalle, Macaroni, Strozzapreti, Orechiette really there's 40 million pastas to choose from lol...)
Shaved parmesan, to serve

1. Cut all your veggies into a large macedoine - I usually cut them around 1-1.5cm square, the key is that they're all around the same size*
2. Pour your tinned tomatoes into a large jug or deep bowl, and using a stick blender process quickly to make sure it is smooth.
3. Place a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add your olive oil, onion, garlic and bacon. Sweat off for 1-2 minutes until onion becomes transparent then add your carrot, celery, capsicum and potato and sweat for 1 minute.
4. Pour in your tomatoes with the chicken/vegetable stock, herbs and seasoning. Turn heat to high and bring to the boil. Once the liquid has come to the boil, turn to low, stir, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Check the potatoes are about half-way cooked. They should be resistant to the touch but starting to soften or become slightly transparent in colour, add your white beans and zucchini. Stir then simmer a further 5 minutes.
6. Check your potato and zucchini are cooked- both should be soft but holding their shape. Add your green beans and cooked pasta** then bring to the boil once more. As soon as soup has boiled, turn off the heat.
7. Ladle into a bowl, and serve with a sprinkling of shaved parmesan and extra cracked pepper.


*http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAEql3ixhyQ <--- here is a quick youtube clip on cutting macedoine
**If you're not eating it straight away, reserve the pasta and add before serving.


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