Monday, 21 November 2011

Minestrone alla Genovese

Soup season is upon us. London has been a resolutely slate-grey monochrome for the past few days and my breath comes out in foggy clouds, reminding me of those cigarettes I so loved, now given up. Soup can be terribly boring though; those uniformly smooth one-dimensional bore-fests are enough to have you in a right depression. Add some texture though and the bowl is transformed.

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

Serves 4

1 large pork shank
4 carrots
4 stalks of celery
1 onion
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.


Graphic Foodie said...

Yeah, I'm pretty much all about minestrone at the mo, made a huge pot last night. Just perfect for the season. I like your pesto addition.

PDH said...

I cooked a minestrone the other day, quite a bit different to yours though as I used ham stock and a few other things. I will post the recipe at some point but yours looks great as well!

helen said...

Yes we are in tune, Mabs! In TOOOOON!I'm eating some of the pork and bean soup I made right now! Yours looks delicious too and it has PASTA!

Chris Pople said...

Every time I see the word "Minestrone" I pronounce it in my head in an outrageously exaggerated Italian accent. Try it! It's fun.

Hollow Legs said...

Graphic Foodie - it's so comforting isn't it?

Pavel - Thanks! Would be really interested to see yours.

Helen - We are the same person. (Yours looked deeelish)

Chris - I will endeavour to do so from now on.

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Anonymous said...

That's really interesting. Thanks for posting all the great information! Had never thought of it all that way before.

Marco said...

I've never tried this recipe for Minestrone before (even the type of pasta used is surprising for me) but I must say that it is extremely accurate! I love it! Greetings from Italy!