Another Monday. Another fast day. With the definite arrival of cooler weather I’m settling into a rather easy pattern of putting soup on the dinner table on Monday nights. Wholesome, warm and nourishing, nothing beats making an enormous pot of soup. Enough for dinner with sufficient leftovers for lunches and and perhaps even a lazy freezer meal.
Looking back over my posts I’m surprised that I haven’t yet posted a recipe for Minestrone Soup. It’s a particular favourite in our house. Easily put together using gorgeous peak seasonal vegetables and any interesting bits and pieces overlooked in the fridge and pantry by my teen-aged eating tsunamis. I can honestly say no two pots of soup are ever quite the same. The one constant is the soup is always jam-packed with a medley of delicious ingredients that pack a powerful and hearty flavour punch. Today its a hearty minestrone filled wit bacon and pasta. At just 143 calories for a filling one cup serve it’s well worth the effort.
Minestrone soups vary from region to region and season to season. Every family has its own preferences and predilections. This time I’ve used bacon, sometimes it’s a little spicy sausage or chicken, often a vegetarian offering with no meat at all. Legumes add substance to the meal. Creamy cannellini beans are a personal favourite but I’ve been known to substitute borlotti beans or even chickpeas. A generous handful or two of pasta thrown into the pot at the very end adds even more structure and bite But rice, faro and orzo also work well. There are no hard and fast rules. It’s all about putting together a delicious, stick to your ribs bowl of soup with whatever is available in your pantry and takes your fancy.
A neat trick I learned from my Nana was to never throw away the rind of parmesan cheese. Save it, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator and throw it into a pot of vegetable soup. The rind imparts a wonderful rich flavour whilst adding very little to the calorie count. Needless to say that’s my not so secret ingredient. I never make a minestrone soup without that all important rind.
Hearty Minestrone Soup With Bacon And Pasta
Makes 10 Cups – 143 calories per cup
1 tablespoon olive oil (120 calories)
4 shortcut rashers bacon (204 calories)
1 onion, diced (46 calories)
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped (54 calories)
2 cloves garlic, finely (8 calories)
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (1 calorie)
2 ribs celery, peeled and diced (16 calories)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (50 calories)
1 capsicum, peeled, seeded and diced (37 calories)
3 zucchini, finely chopped (90 calories)
3 tomatoes, peeled and diced (66 calories)
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped (2 calories)
1 1/2 litres (6 cups) chicken or vegetable stock (120 calories)
½ teaspoon dried oregano (3 calories)
1 bay leaf (2 calories)
the rind of a piece of parmesan cheese (50 calories)
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, net weight 220 g rinsed and drained (210 calories)
1/2 cup pasta, barley, orzo or rice (350 calories)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
PLACE oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and fry until it starts to crisp.
ADD onion and leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until tender and translucent.
ADD chilli and garlic. Cook until fragrant, then add celery, carrots, capsicum and zucchini. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender.
STIR in tomatoes and parsley.Then add stock, oregano, bay and parmesan cheese rind.
BRING soup to the boil. Reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for half an hour.
Lastly add the cannellini beans and pasta. Simmer for 10 minutes more, until the pasta is al dente. If the soup thickens too much, thin with a little more stock or water.
REMOVE the bay leaf and parmesan rind from the soup. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve.