I still remember the memory of my very first practical cooking class. It was a crisp Spring morning in Auckland, New Zealand and I was super excited to wear my chef whites (chef jacket) for the first time, and finally doing what I loved doing — cooking! It was a very fun class, taught by the term chef Sanjay (who was super kind and helpful!). That morning he taught us many kinds of vegetables cuts, and how to cook with it.
He said, minestrone is an Italian peasant dish because literally, all the mothers know how to cook it with whatever ingredients left in their pantry. It was easy and I had so much fun cooking it. These days this soup is a must have in our freezer especially in chilly winter nights. Once eaten I make more with vegetables scraps I have ready in the fridge. It is so versatile and easily tailored as well! For example my version uses bacon, you can use chorizo, sausages or even leave it out to make this vegetarian; and you can easily swap the vegetables with what you have ready (for example instead of veggies from this recipe you can use leek, cabbage, sweet potato etc).
Recipe has been modified to my liking, over the years, from the very basic recipe found in my cookery class recipe printings!
My Minestrone Soup
Makes two standard sandwich ziplock bags for the freezer, or serves four
– 2 carrots, peeled and diced
– 2 onions, peeled and diced
– 1 large potato, peeled and diced
– 4 stalks celery, peeled and diced
– 1 cup celery leaves, chopped
– 1/2 bulb garlic, finely chopped
– 3 streaky bacon, sliced
– 250ml chicken stock (skip if you don’t have any)
– 20g butter
– a dash of red wine (optional)
– 1 cup pasta of your choice
– 1 can chopped tomatoes
– 1 heap tablespoon of tomato paste
– 2 bay leaves
– 2 tsp dried thyme (or fresh thyme if there is any)
– salt and pepper
- Melt butter in a pot. Saute bacon for 1 minute, add diced celery, garlic and onions and saute until onion sweats out (about 3 minutes). If you are using dried thyme also add it on this stage.
- Add carrots and saute for about 1 minute, mix in tomato paste and a dash of red wine if you have any and stir for 1-2 minutes (until the alcohol dissolves).
- Add chicken stock and water (or only water if you are skipping the stock) until it covers the ingredients in the pot. Add in bay leaves (and fresh thyme if you are using instead of dried version) and canned tomatoes.
- Bring the pot to boil, cover it and simmer in low/medium heat until vegetables are tender.
- Once vegetables are tender, add in pasta and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Lastly before serving stir in chopped celery leaves.
- Serve with buttered bread!