Heinz has rather a lot to answer for. Aside from a couple of exceptions, I don’t think I’ve ever been truly satisfied with any of its soups. For some reason it adds sugar to tomato soup, makes mushroom soup that tastes of anything but and concocts minestrone that is primarily tomato based, thus convincing most of us that such a thing is correct… it is not – time to dispel a myth or two.
Minestrone, which when translated literally means ‘big soup‘, is a seasonal soup that can be made of whatever ingredients are at hand. The only fixed characteristics of minestrone are that it should contain pasta and plenty of delicious stock. As such, it is to be expected that a dish so undefinable would have myriad different variations and this, of course, is true. However, tomatoes are unlikely to be found high up on the list of ingredients that really make minestrone sing.
Minestrone epitomises autumnal eating; it is the ‘throw everything in’ mind-set that I find particularly enchanting. For that reason, I don’t want anyone to feel too constrained by this recipe; add whatever you see fit. However, there are certain ingredients that should remain; the wine and bacon give it an exceptional rich and flavourful quality, whilst the carrots and onion (in this case leeks) provide it with hearty body. If one is interested in making a vegetarian version of this minestrone, one could happily replace the bacon with one teaspoon of smoked paprika.
Minestrone really is the ideal soup for every season. So, why not avoid the misleading soup of Heinz and make your own with whatever you have to hand? Enjoy!
• 2 leeks, finely chopped
• 3 carrots, finely diced
• 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
• 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• Olive oil
• 400g beans, haricot, borlotti or pinto work well
• 2 rashers of smoked bacon or pancetta, finely sliced
• A dash of white or red wine
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 tbsp fresh chopped herb (rosemary, thyme, basil or sage)
• 1 tomato, squished
• A knob of butter
• 100g tiny pasta or broken up spaghetti
• 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1. Pour a good amount of olive oil into a large pan. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, bacon and your herb of choice and sweat for 15 minutes – don’t allow them to brown. Add the wine, tomato, stock and bay leaves and cook for a further 10 minutes.
2. Tip in the pasta, butter and beans. Cook until the pasta is done. Season and serve immediately with a little bread and parmesan.
Cost: None of the ingredients for this dish are particularly expensive; they are fairly seasonal after all. Indeed, even with wine and bacon included, this large pot of soup should set one back around £2.50, a mere trifle compared to Herr Heinz’s fare.