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Given the continued low temperatures outside, I am inclined much more towards soup than salad these days, and minestrone is Italian for just the kind of hearty soup I fancy in this weather.

Minestrone is also all about what you have to hand, so adjust to suit your own stash of vegetables. This version has got the the olive oil, mushroom and oregano that featured strongly in the Francesco Mazzei Milano’s menu. It’s also tomatoey, but thanks to good quality tinned tomatoes, which are a better choice at this time of year.

As for the pasta, use whatever dried pasta you have to hand, breaking larger pieces up into whatever size pieces you’d like to find in your soup.

You’ll need:
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tblsp butter
  • 200g onion (1 large), finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 125g carrot (2 small carrots), finely diced
  • 125g celery (2 large sticks), finely diced
  • 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes, chopped
  • 50ml red wine (one you’d consider drinking yourself)
  • 600ml water or light vegetable or chicken stock
  • 150g dried pasta (break large pasta into smaller pieces)
  • 1 tsp fine salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • shavings of parmesan to serve
The Steps:
  • Place a large, heavy saucepan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the olive oil and butter.
  • When the butter has melted, add the onion and garlic. Stir and fry over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook for about another 5 minutes or until just starting to release some liquid.
  • Now add the carrot and celery and stir and fry for another 7-8 minutes.
  • Add the chopped tinned tomatoes, wine, water or stock, oregano, salt and black pepper. Stir to mix, bring to the boil, then cover, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the carrots start to become tender.
  • Stir in the dried pasta and simmer until al dente [1] – depending on the pasta, this should take somewhere around 7-10 minutes. The soup should be thick and chunky, though you can thin it with additional boiling water if you like.
  • Ladle into bowls and scatter with some shavings of parmesan.
The Variations:
  • Have a look in your fridge or vegetable basket and include a bit of whatever looks good – minestrone’s a bit like that. You can also throw in some cannellini or other beans if that takes your fancy.
The Results:
  • Makes about 4 decent helpings