A slow-cooked minestrone made with fresh seasonal ingredients and served with good bread is a healthy and delicious dinner or lunch.
The winter version has more potatoes in it, and denser, richer vegetables such as cavolo nero. Its springtime cousin is altogether lighter and fresher.
Minestrone is often served in Tuscany in a bowl which has toasted farmhouse bread placed in it, rubbed lightly with raw garlic and drizzled with olive oil.
250g/8 oz dried cannellini beans soaked overnight and cooked (see below)
2 cloves garlic
3 small tomatoes
Extravirgin olive oil
2 sticks celery
1/2 savoy cabbage
1 or 2 potatoes
3 skinned tomatoes (can be canned)
Other seasonal vegetables (chard, spinach, peas...) a handful of each
Several sprigs of thyme
1 litre/2 pints vegetable stock
The previous evening, soak the beans in plenty of cold water.
Change the water and bring slowly to the boil, with the garlic, sage and small tomatoes. Cook slowly for approximately 2 hours, until the beans are tender.
Discard the garlic and sage, and purée half the beans.
While the beans are cooking, wash the vegetables well. Cut the carrots into discs or cubes, the tomatoes into large chunks, and the rest into fine cubes or slices.
Put all the vegetables into a large pot to fry for 5 minutes in a good swirl of olive oil.
Add the herbs, salt, pepper, the whole and puréed beans and the stock. The quantities should be such as to end up with a thick soup, but remember that the cabbage will release a lot of water.
Check the seasoning and cook with the lid on for about an hour and a half on a low flame.
Add the thyme towards the end of the cooking process.
Dress with plenty of olive oil and black pepper. Soup is often served in Tuscany in a bowl which has toasted farmhouse bread placed in it, rubbed lightly with raw garlic and drizzled with olive oil.