“Minestrone originally was a very humble dish and was intended for everyday consumption, being filling and cheap, and would likely have been the main course of a meal. Minestrone is part of what is known in Italy as cucina povera (literally “poor kitchen”) meaning poorer people’s cuisine.Due to its unique origins and the absence of a fixed recipe, minestrone is not particularly similar across Italy: it varies depending on traditional cooking times, ingredients, and season.
Minestrone ranges from a thick and dense texture with very boiled-down vegetables, to a more brothy soup with large quantities of diced and lightly-cooked vegetables that may include meats. Like many Italian dishes, minestrone was probably originally not a dish made for its own sake, though this point is argued. In other words, whereas one might set about killing a rabbit, with the intention of then eating cooked rabbit, one did not gather the ingredients of minestrone with the intention of making minestrone.
The ingredients were pooled from ingredients of other dishes, often side dishes or “contorni” plus whatever was left over.As eating habits and ingredients changed in Italy, so did minestrone.
The Roman army is said to have marched on minestrone and pasta fagioli (or beans and pasta), the former making use of local and seasonal ingredients, the latter due to the longevity of dried goods.The introduction of new ingredients from the Americas in the Middle Ages, including tomatoes and potatoes, also changed the soup to the point that tomatoes are now considered a staple ingredient (though the quantity used varies from northern to southern Italy).There are two schools of thought on when the recipe for minestrone became more formalized.
One argues that in the 1600s and 1700s minestrone emerged as a soup using exclusively fresh vegetables and was made for its own sake (meaning it no longer relied on left-overs), while the other school of thought argues that the dish had always been prepared exclusively with fresh vegetables for its own sake since pre-Roman times, but the name minestrone lost its meaning of being made with left-overs and came to be associated with the dish in the 18th and 19th centuries. The earliest attestation of the modern use of minestrone dates to the 18th and 19th centuries.In the modern era, the ready availability and long storage life of canned stocks and broths means that more minestrone is based on stock or broth than water.
The availability of newer, more unusual vegetables from the Americas (such as the many varieties of squash) or Asia means some minestrone now include non-European vegetables, though this is frowned upon by purists”
Minestrone Soup with a Twist
I’m making this today, and tweaking it as I go along, so the ingredients are subject to change! The great thing about the soup, is that I can put in whatever I like. I Love celery, so I’m adding two sticks. I love savoy cabbage, so I’ll be using that as opposed to kale which is more traditionally used in this soup. I often see noodles in minestrone too, but I’m using fusilli (gives it the twist!)
1 onion peeled and diced
1 potato peeled and diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot peeled and diced
2 celery sticks diced
100g of dried kidney beans
1 sprig of basil
2 litres of vegetable stock
200 grams of fusilli pasta (the twist!)
1 diced courgette
200g of shredded savoy cabbage
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta and set aside
Warm the oil in a large soup pot on medium heat.
Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes
Add the courgette, celery, carrots, potatoes, salt, pepper, and stock and cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are almost done.
Add the cabbage and beans and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the cabbage is tender and the beans are hot.
Serve with parmesan and dry Italian bread.