Thursday, February 17, 2011

Minestrone/An Italian Wedding Soup for the Confused Kitchen.

Remember when I was rambling about hummus? How it's nearly impossible to buy some honest-to-God hummus, and you couldn't really make the real thing at home, due to lack of ingredients and food mills? I have the same problem with a good Minestrone soup. The restaurants that fall into my budget make disappointing, watery minestrone. And it's difficult to make at home, due to non-availability of good quality Parmesan, canned tomatoes/cannelloni beans.

And just like with the hummus, I worked on making a passably decent minestrone with locally procured produce and some imported ingredients. I have to tell you, I'm feeling pretty pleased with the results.

To make the perfect minestrone, you need to go to the market. So what if you can't locate canned green beans or frozen peas? We've got fresh ones all year round. Don't let this deter you from cooking up a foreign storm.

The little beige square is the rind of the parmesan cheese! And yes, I
used way more veg than there is in the photo!

I bought some zucchini (actual, misshapen zucchini, which didn't look like plastic toys), button mushrooms, celery (again, it didn't have nice ribs/stalks like their foreign counterparts, but made up for it by giving out the most divine smell) and a host of indigenous veggies. Next, I scoured the Internet for recipes (mostly from Allrecipes and The Pioneer Woman.) Turned to Nita Mehta's Italian Cooking for the Indian Kitchen. Searched for substitutes for a can of cannelloni beans and a can of stewed tomatoes. Dug through the deep freezer to check if we had Parmesan or at least the rind.

Time to get the soup pot out!

This recipe feeds at least six hungry people. It isn't a set recipe (like with baking), because all our palates are so subjective, so keep spoons ready to taste as you go along. And do your family a massive favour and don't double-dip! Don't listen to your mum if she says things like she gave birth to you, and so it makes it OK. It doesn't.

Take a look at the photos before you get a start on this soup; this is so you know the size/cut of the veg and pasta. Try playing with the  ingredients as you deem fit (potatoes in place of the zucchini, cabbages for a crunch, broccoli and cauliflower, more mushrooms and such similar substitutes). Cut the vegetables into equal-sized bits, so they cook evenly.

Roasted Vegetables Minestrone Soup:


2 zucchini, cut into cubes.
250 g button mushrooms, quartered.
1 tbsp olive oil.
1 tsp butter.
2 long carrots, peeled and sliced.
1 whole red onion, diced.
5 cloves of garlic, diced.
3 stalks celery, diced.
2 bay leaves (ramba/biryani leaf)
1 litre chicken/vegetable broth (I dissolved 2 Maggi soup cubes in a litre of water.)
300 g cooked chickpeans (or open a can of canellini/garbanzo/red kidney beans)
1/2 cup of fresh green beans, cut into 3 cm segments.
1/2 cup of uncooked, shelled peas.
3/4 cup uncooked small pasta (I used elbow macaroni).
300 g fresh tomatoes.
4 tbsp tomato paste/ketchup.
2 tsp dried thyme/basil.
Salt and pepper, to taste (Sea salt/Freshly cracked pepper, if you have it).
Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling.


1)Preheat oven to 250 degrees Celsius.

Spread aluminium foil over a baking tray. Toss the zucchini and mushroom with the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Arrange it on the tray, and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, until slightly charred.

2) In a big soup pot, melt the butter, with a few drops of olive oil over medium heat.

 I know that looks like a lot of butter. But it's just one teaspoon, honest. You can omit it altogether, and use just olive oil.

3)Throw in the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and keep swishing them about for roughly 3 minutes.

4)Add the chicken broth to the pan. Set the heat on high and bring to a furious boil.


If you can make fresh vegetable broth or stew chicken in water with carrots and onions for hours together, good for you. However, to make life a whole lot easier, buy concentrated liquid stock or chicken bouillon cubes. 2 cubes from Maggi (Indian) costs 17 bucks, and is halal, so whew. However, you can also buy Cream of Mushroom/Cream of Broccoli/Cream of Chicken and the like and make it according to packet instructions and use that!

Double, double, Toil and trouble.

5)Reduce the heat to SIM, and let it SIMmer for ten minutes or so. At this point, if you have the ends of the Parmesan cheese (the rind, some people call it), throw it into the pot. You can remove this and the bay leaves at the end of it all.

6)Add the chickpeas/cannelloni beans, peas and the green beans. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.

7)Throw in the pasta and let it cook for 5 minutes.
Yes, I stole Zaad's bowl. He steals mine all the time. Evidence at the end
of the post.

You can salvage all your expensive, imported fusillis and fettuccine. Bambino macaroni is posh enough for this rustic soup.

8)As the pasta cooks, prep your tomatoes. Make X's (criss-cross/cruciate incisions) at the bottom of the tomatoes. Put them all in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on low for 3-4 minutes. Mash it into a pulp.

Choose acidic, ripe tomatoes!

11)Add the prepared tomatoes. If you have tomato paste-not puree-paste (or ready made pasta sauce), use that. If not, Maggi's Rich Tomato Ketchup will have to do. Cook on low for 5 minutes, at the end of which, you should taste the soup; add in the salt, pepper and herbs.

Since stocks have a lot of salt in them already, pay heed to your taste buds. Listen to them (in a totally non-schizophrenic way).

10)Add the roasted zucchini and mushroom and let it simmer for a last few minutes. If it's too thick, add some more stock/broth. Discard the bay leaves and Parmesan rind.

9)Serve hot-hot-hot with a few shavings of Parmesan. You can use cheddar if you like. Or skip the cheese in the soup, and serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Gather the taste-testers and ask them for their opinion. My one-and-a-half year old nephew (whose fastidiousness they attribute to me), finished his(my) glass bowl full of soup. Told you he was picky.

I drank/ate my soup with a slice of crusty bread (which would be awesome, toasted with garlic-infused olive oil.)

The mug is a just a teaser cup (even coffee in the cup is pointless). I had a little more than that. Relatively little, considering the sheer proportions of the soup, at least.


  1. The dad wants to know why you don't put up recipes with ingredients he can actually FIND at home instead of stuff with zucchini in it.

  2. Tell him that the market is rampant with organic summer squash and zucchini. Obviously, you can sub one thing with another, but the texture/taste of zucchini in soup is something he should try!