20 December 2009

Minestrone and Two Winners!

TODAY’S THE DAY! TODAY’S THE DAY! Today is the day when we choose the winners of the Double Truffles. According to, the two winners are numbers 13 and 33. That’s Maria at Two Peas and Their Pod and Kate at Kate in the Kitchen. I’ll need your addresses--email me at Kate(underscore)and(underscore)Dan AT, and I’ll get the goodies in the post after Christmas. The post office is a madhouse right now!

I don’t know about you, but right now I’m tired of rich food. I want something a little lighter, fresher, full of vegetables and simple goodness. Minestrone fits the bill perfectly.

Like much of my favorite Italian cooking, minestrone is very flexible - it takes advantage of what’s available when you make it. At its most basic, it’s vegetable soup. Made right, it’s a revelation. This is a dish that is different every time I make it--because what I have to use is different every time.

This soup starts with the ‘aromatics’--onion, carrot, celery. In Italian, these are called ‘gli odori’. Now, normally I love the Italian names of things--they’re just so musical and evocative. But in this case I prefer the English name, because ‘odori’ sounds too much like old gym shoes. Actually, in our house we normally call them ‘the usual suspects’. In any case, they fill the house with a wonderful smell, which presages the flavor of this soup.

I think minestrone needs some pasta in it--not too much, but a little bit. Because this makes more soup than we can eat at one time, I don’t put the pasta in the soup until I serve it, so that it doesn’t turn to mush. You can use any kind of small pasta. I had some tiny squares I found in Italy, but you can use orzo or even vermicelli that’s been broken into tiny pieces. If you leave the pasta out, the recipe is gluten free.

Most recipes also call for chopped cabbage or cavolo nero, which is a very dark kale-type cabbage that grows in Italy. It’s only good after a frost, so it’s really a winter vegetable. We don’t have it here, but I did have a chinese cabbage, so I used that. I don’t really like boiled cabbage too much, so I didn’t add it to the soup either. I put it in the bowl and poured the soup over it. I did the same with the green onions to preserve their sharp flavor and crunch.

This recipe came from my cooking course in Siena. In Italy they throw the rind from parmesan into the soup pot. It adds a richness to the soup, and gives some gooey melted cheese pieces that are like the cheesy croutons on top of French onion soup. I sometimes forget to keep them, but this time I had a couple so I threw them in too.


Enough for 6-8

1 T butter or olive oil

1 large onion

1 leek

3 medium carrots

2 stalks celery, including greens

1 bell pepper (I used a red one, for color)

2 medium potatoes

1/4 celery root

2-3 medium tomatoes

125 g / 1/4 pound small pasta

3-4 kale or cabbage leaves

1 spring onion

a good handful of grated parmesan

salt and pepper

  • Put the butter or olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat.
  • Cut the onion in half, remove the peel, and slice it thin. Add to the soup pot.
  • Cut the dark top off the leek, cut it in half, and clean it under running water. Slice it thin across the grain (giving you little semi-circles) and add it to the soup pot. Stir the pot.
  • Cut the carrots into small cubes and add them to the soup pot. Stir the pot.
  • Cut the celery across the stalks, including the greens. Add to the soup pot. Stir the pot.
  • Chop the bell pepper into small cubes and add to the pot. You know what comes next.
  • Chop the potatoes into small cubes and add to the pot. Stir it. By now all the onions and leek should be well sweated.
  • Chop the celery root into small cubes and add to the pot. Stir it.
  • At this point add water. I use boiling water, but it probably doesn’t matter. You want enough to come 8-10 cm / 3-4 inches above the vegetables.
  • Chop the tomatoes into cubes and add to the pot. Yes, stir it again. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  • Leave this to simmer for about an hour and a half. Adjust salt to taste.
  • To serve, boil the pasta and drain it. Chop the cabbage and the spring onion.
  • Put some pasta in the bowls, along with some chopped cabbage and spring onions. Pour the soup over, and top with some fresh grated parmesan and pepper.


  • Of course, you can adjust the veggies any way you like. I think it has to have celery, carrots, onions and potatoes. It’s good enough with just those, but add whatever you have to it.
  • I never peel my potatoes or carrots. I buy organic ones and scrub them well. I like the peel!
  • Celery root, on the other hand, has to be peeled. It’s a wonderful winter vegetable. We use it in salads, and add it cooked to mashed potatoes. It brings a light celery flavor to everything.
  • In the summer you can use zucchini / courgette or any kind of squash in this. In the winter parsnips or turnips are good. Feel free to play with this recipe.
  • We ate this with some good bread and cheeses.


La Table De Nana said...

Congrats to les filles:)

Your soup looks exactly like the one I ALWAYS order in Little Italy..

You know I have never put celery root in my Minestrone..Time to start I think:)

I could live on soup alone!!

Odori cracked me up:)

I'll try your recipe Kate..It is fun making recipes that are tried and true by people we follow..I am sure I will see your soup at FG..:)

lostpastremembered said...

You made me laugh with the odori comment ! How great to go to cooking class in Siena. The minestrone is beautifully balanced like all great northern food. Great post on a cold snowy day!

food with style said...

oh that looks so good, our fog turned into rain, i wish i had a bowl of your goodness this very moment!

Kate said...

You soup looks satisfying...I would love to have a bowl. It is cold, damp and foggy here...and I agree, I am taking a break from sugar!

The Gypsy Chef said...

Your soup looks wonderful. We are under a foot of snow here, so a bowl of this luscious soup would certainly do the trick tonight! I love the idea of putting the greens in the bottom of the bowl and ladling the soup over them.
The Parmesan cheese trick I read about in Marcella Hazan's first cook book. It's such a simple idea but a terrific one. Sounds like you really enjoyed the cooking class in Siena.
I too am tired of rich food and sweets, however I keep looking at your chocolate cookies and I want one! I may have to make them.
Happy Christmas, Pam

Junglefrog said...

I am so tired of rich foods, that I almost want this period to be over, so I can go back to eating healthy! That's what you get when testing all those christmas dishes! I love the minestrone and indeed perfect for a light day in between!

Barbara said...

I agree, Kate, too many rich foods this time of year. And lots of eating out where we are more tempted than usual. I don't want to hurry the season because I am planning to completely enjoy having my kids here, but down deep am already planning my diet in January! And it will include your lovely soup.
Happy Christmas to you!

Hungry Dog said...

Kate, this looks absolutely delicious, and you are so right--amidst all the cookies and cakes I am craving salads and vegetables! I might do a minestrone myself tonight, I happen to have a lot of cabbage I need to do SOMETHING with.

Kate at Serendipity said...

Thanks for the comments--it really IS soup weather here!

Normally recipes for Minestrone don't call for celery root, but I had one and the flavors really fit, so why not? It adds something to the soup, I think.

Monique, this probably IS the soup you had in Italy, depending on the season you were there!

Pam, the parmesan rind thing is so typically Tuscan---use what's there, be creative with it and don't waste anything! I really like to eat the softened cheese after it's cooked in the soup. ...and the chocolate cookies aren't rich at all. Nope. Not a bit.

Simone and Barbara, I know, I know. I'm ready for something lighter. This really hit the spot.

Hungry Dog, what better use for cabbage? It's too cold for cole slaw...

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Soup is so hard to photograph and make it look appetizing but your photos make your minestrone look delicious!

Anonymous said...

Yum!! I see you made a soup with celery root in it as well! Quite different outcomes though, eh?

I for one am not sick of rich food ... because I haven't had much yet!! I'm about to leave for home for Christmas, where I'm sure we'll all get our fill. Can't wait! But come January, I'll be making a nice, light soup like this.

Kate, the writing in this post was fabulous, by the way. You used such amusing turns of phrases ... thanks!

WizzyTheStick said...

Hi Kate - thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such a kind compliment. Your own blog is gorgeous. I think I'll put my feet up and rest here a while because that soup looks cozy and inviting.

ParisMaddy said...

Mmm, soup and some crusty bread can be a delicisou meal in my soup world. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

Merry Christmas.

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Congrats to the winners...someday I will win something :-)

I love the colours of the soup....and super purrfect for the season. I'm sure 'Sean Connery' would love it!

And the parmesan rind (which I have in my fridge) would of course imbue this with superb umami!!!!

Carol at Serendipity said...


Then soup looks wonderful. There is a lot of rich food this time of year!!! I hope you have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year!


Sweet and Savory said...

First, I must share with you that I thought of you, in school, today. I taught my fifth graders, the word, "serendipity". They loved the word and we thought of many scenarios that would cover it. It turned out to be fun.

Secondly, this is the soup for me. I try to make a soup, each week, and I have not done so, yet. I am printing this up now and while I make tonight's dinner, I hopefully will be able to get soup made for Friday night.,

2 Stews said...

I am sitting in London now with the fog hanging over the city. We just had our work Christmas party last night and your soup seems to be what I am craving! When I return home...I'll shop and make.

Happy Holidays!


My Carolina Kitchen said...

Congratulations to the winners and happy holidays Kate to you and your family.

Grace said...

i missed this soup, and that's unacceptable! what a treat--light yet flavorful, healthy yet filling. it's just full of goodness. hope your holidays are moving along nicely! :)