Minestrone is Italy's most famous soup and it has become popular because its easy to make, adaptable and delicious. Over the centuries Minestrone in Italy has changed a great deal. Tomatoes for instance as a newer addition to the soup.
Traditionally minestrone is made with Borlotti beans also known as cranberry beans but they are not always available, Here is my version, which uses ingredients that you can find anywhere. This recipe can be made with bacon or you can use dried mushrooms (as indicated below) for a vegetarian version that is scrumptious. I serve it with a pesto bruschetta reminiscent of the Ligurian version of this soup known as Minestrone all Genovese. But garlic bread is great too. I used Fregola- a toasted semolina pasta in this soup. You can use barley instead if you want a gluten-free version.
1/2 CUP FINELY CHOPPED BACON OR USE 2 TBSP DRIED PORCINI/SHITTAKE MUSHROOMS FOR VEGETARIANS
3 TBSPN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OR REGULAR VEGETABLE OIL
1 CUP FINELY CHOPPED WHITE ONION
1/4 CUP FINELY CHOPPED CELERY STALK
1/4 CUP FINELY CHOPPED FRESH GARLIC
5 COOKING POTATOES PEELED AND QUARTERED
2 CUPS CARROTS, SLICED LENGTHWISE AND THEN HALVED INTO 1/4 INCH THICK PIECES
1 CUP YELLOW ZUCCHINI DICED MEDIUM
1 CUP GREEN ZUCCHINI DICED MEDIUM
1 CAN (400G) TINNED BAKED BEANS
1 TEASPOON GROUND WHITE PEPPER OR MORE
1 CUP FREGOLA OR USE SMALL TUBE PASTA OF YOUR CHOICE SUCH AS ELBOW MACARONI,DITALINI OR CONCHIGLIE
SALT TO TASTE
PESTO BUTTER BRUSCHETTA
80 GRAM FRESH BASIL
6 CLOVES GARLIC
3 TBSPN BUTTER
3 TBSPNS SHREDDED PARMESAN
1/4 CUP PINE NUTS, CHILGOZA OR SKINNED ALMONDS
IF MAKING VEGETARIAN MINESTRONE SOAK THE DRIED MUSHROOMS IN 1/2 CUP HOT WATER.
HEAT OIL ON MEDIUM HEAT IN A LARGE SOUP POT. ADD BACON AND COOK UNTIL GOLDEN AND RENDERED. IF VEGETARIAN SKIP THIS STEP.
ADD ONIONS AND CELERY AND SAUTE UNTIL ONIONS ARE SOFT AND TRANSLUCENT-3-4 MINUTES.
ADD POTATOES AND STIR WELL. ADD 1.5 LITERS OF WATER, GROUND PEPPER AND COOK 5-7 MINUTES UNTIL POTATOES SOFTEN.
ADD CARROTS AND COOK ANOTHER 4 MINUTES UNTIL CARROTS SOFTEN.
ADD BEANS, AND COURGETTES AND THE MUSHROOMS WITH THEIR LIQUID (IF USING) AND COOK 2 MINUTES ON HIGH HEAT UNTIL THE SOUP BEGINS TO BOIL.
ADD PASTA AND SWITCH OFF THE FLAME.
ALLOW THE PASTA TO COOK IN THE HEAT OF THE SOUP.
ADD SALT AND MORE PEPPER TO TASTE. LADLE INTO BOWLS.
FOR THE PESTO
PROCESS THE INGREDIENTS TO A CHUNKY CONSISTENCY IN A FOOD PROCESSOR.
FOR THE BREAD
FLAME THE SOURDOUGH OR BAGUETTE OVER AN OPEN FLAME ON BOTH SIDES. IMMEDIATELY BRUSH WITH PESTO BUTTER AND SERVE WITH HOT MINESTRONE AND MORE PARMESAN ON THE SIDE.