So this minestrone with cheesy crusty croutons is my attempt to make something that straddles the comfort food / healthy food boarders. I think it does it quite well. It’s packed with vegetables of all kinds, swimming in a gloriously rich vegetable broth and floating on top are the most divine cheddar crusty croutons that elevate this from a simple soup to a sumptuous supper.
Whilst I’m happy to throw any veg into a minestrone, for me, a proper minestrone has to have 4 key ingredients;
- This is a chunky, unblended soup. You should be able to see all the veg swimming around gloriously in a luscious stock. So a good quality stock and a tin of chopped tomatoes.
- There must be cabbage. It can be any kind of cabbage. Red cabbage, white cabbage, cavalo nero, even Brussels sprouts.
- There must be beans. Again, can be any beans from the classic broad beans to runner beans and beyond. I’ve even been known to use up some baked beans from breakfast.
- Finally there must be some kind of carbohydrate in the mix. Traditionally it would have been mini-macaroni but any pasta would work, even spaghetti broken up. But rice would work, barley, orzo or even little dices of potato.
my top 3 tips to making the best Minestrone:
- low and slow – there really is no reason to rush this one and the lower and slower you can cook it the better it will taste. This includes making it the day before you’re going to eat it. Those flavours will only enhance with an overnight cool down and reheat.
- add some wine to your stock – there’s something about that little glass of white wine that takes this from soup to super!
- cheese – I always grate a mix of very strong cheddar and parmesan in to the final soup, it gives it an unexpected creaminess and also adds a subtle twang which works wonders with all the vegetables.
- a little olive oil and butter
- one medium white onion – chopped
- 2-3 sticks of celery – chopped
- 1 large carrot – chopped
- 2 garlic cloves – grated
- fresh herbs – I used oregano, rosemary and thyme
- 100g frozen peas
- 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 2/3rd litre vegetable stock mixed with 1/3rd white wine
- 1/4 head of large savoy cabbage – chopped
- 100g pasta – I used
- 100g strong cheddar cheese – finely grated
- plenty of fresh ground black pepper
for the cheesy croutons
- a few slices of chunky bread – I’m using some sourdough baguette
- 100g hard cheese such as parmesan or Lincolnshire Poacher – finely grated
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- chilli oil
In a large soup pan or shallow casserole dish, heat a little butter with some olive oil and once warm throw in the onions, celery and carrots, stir well, turn up the temperature to just above medium and let the vegetables cook for at least 8 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the grated garlic and the fresh herbs halfway through this cooking time and stir well in.
After 8 or so minutes the vegetables will have begun to soften and slightly colour, add the peas and stir well in and let them shimmy in the heat for another 5 mins
Add the tin of chopped tomatoes followed by the stock and stir together, then add the cabbage, place the lid on, turn down the heat to it’s very lowest and let the whole thing gently bubble away for at least 45 mins, adding the pasta after 20 mins.
Take it off the heat and add the cheese and stir well in.
Meanwhile, To make the croutons, pre-heat the oven to 180C fan. Cut thick slices of the bread (maybe 2 per person?) and lay them out on a baking tray. Sprinkle with a little olive oil (a chilli oil is nice) and season with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. Bake for 15 mins then remove from the oven, sprinkle over a little more oil followed by the cheese so they they’re evenly coated. Baked for 10 mins more until golden and crispy.
At this stage the Minestrone is essentially ready to serve but I promise you it simply won’t taste as good as it could do should you allow it to cool entirely and reheat later. The ultimate would be the next day but if you make it in the morning and serve it in the evening then it will be pretty damn phenomenal!
For more soup recipes try these on Dom in the Kitchen.
Eat and of course, enjoy!