Minestrone is a typical Italian soup; I'm most used to it being very tomato-heavy, almost like a thick chunky stew. It is mostly made of whatever vegetables are in season though much of its flavour comes from the broth it is cooked in.
This particular recipe omits to tomatoes, favouring instead the clean pure broth from simmered pork bones and aromatics. Vegetables are added for a brief cooking so that they still retain a bit of bite, though my beloved cavolo nero are given a long, slow cooking for ultimate silkiness. Cannellini beans and ditaloni pasta bulk the soup out and thicken it ever so slightly. I couldn't help but add a hefty tablespoon of a roughly bashed pesto, that heady aniseed from the basil and salty pecorino adding another layer of flavour and a Ligurian twist.
Minestrone alla Genovese
1 large pork shank
4 stalks of celery
2 bay leaves
150gr dried cannellini or borlotti beans soaked overnight
200gr ditaloni (I bought this at the Turkish Food Centre) or any other soup pasta, or even rice
1 large courgette
4 stalks of cavolo nero
3 cloves of garlic
1 head of fennel
For the pesto:
A handful of basil leaves
Half that of parsley
A couple table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
50gr of pecorino
Salt & pepper
Boil the beans in plain water for 10 minutes, then drain. To make the broth, blanch the pork shank in boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes, then rinse and wash the pot out thoroughly. Add to fresh pot of water to cover the shank and add the onion, quartered with the bay leaves, 2 of the carrots and 2 stalks of celery. Add the beans in. Dice the rest of the carrots and celery and set aside.
Simmer for 4 or so hours.
Your beans should be nice and tender by now. Fish out the onion, carrots and celery and bay leaves and discard. Strip the fat and skin off the shank and discard. Strip the meat off and chop roughly, discard the bones. Divide the pork meat into four bowls. In another pan, heath a little oil and add the garlic, minced. Add the fennel, roughly chopped with plenty of salt, and when tender add the broth and beans back in. Simmer the broth and beans with the cavolo nero for 10 minutes, then add the reserved diced celery and carrot. Dice the courgette and add this in with the ditaloni. Simmer for a further 10 or so minutes until it is all tender and take off the heat.
To make the pesto, chop basil and parsley finely. Mix well with the olive oil, then grate the cheese finely and add this in to make a rough sauce. Season to taste.
Divide the soup between bowls and top with the pesto.