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One-Pot Wonder: Authentic Italian minestrone makes a belly-warming meal

Rowena Dumlao-Giardina resides in Italy, cooking and photographing her family's interesting meals on Apron and Sneakers. After moving to Italy in 1999 from the Philippines, she has traveled extensively around the country and the rest of ...

Peek inside an Italian kitchen to see how traditional minestrone soup is made

Originally a peasant dish from the ancient Roman times, minestrone became a part of every Italian home. It is very easy to make, because you just combine the vegetables in season with beans, pasta or grains. There are no specific rules on which vegetables or additional ingredients to use, because the soup is what cooks put together in the kitchen using ingredients that are available. It is highly nutritious, uses cheap ingredients and always comes with a touch of love.

I learned how to make minestrone as soon as I moved to Italy. It was one of the musts of every Italian kitchen that my mother-in-law cooked often. There is never a fixed recipe, because the ingredients always change depending on what vegetables she finds in the market; sometimes she adds pasta, sometimes grains like barley or farro. The broth is not measured either — as long as it covers the vegetables, you can start cooking. It's not a recipe you jot down; it's a recipe you remember and prepare by heart using fresh, beautiful, nutritious ingredients after a trip to the market.

One thing that makes it richer in flavor is when you use the rind of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, precisely the part you throw away after finishing the cheese. I don't throw away the rind after we finish a wedge of Parmigiano at home. I learned to wrap the rinds in paper towels and stash them in the refrigerator, just like my mother-in-law used to do, always ready for the next pot of minestrone.

The minestrone recipe I am sharing has measurements for guidance. Feel free to adjust the kinds of vegetables — just make sure they are fresh. From my kitchen to yours, buon appetito!

Peek inside an Italian kitchen to see how traditional minestrone soup is made

Image: Rowena Dumlao-Giardina/SheKnows

Minestrone soup recipe

Serves 4

Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 1 hour | Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup pearl barley
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup cauliflower, diced
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups chard, coarsely chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups beans (if using dried beans, soak an hour prior to cooking)
  • 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, optional (This is the outer part of the Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel that you lightly scrape with a knife to clean.)
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • Fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (to taste)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. In a big pot, combine the pearl barley, onion, vegetables, beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (if using) and the vegetable broth.
  2. Over medium heat, let it boil, then simmer over low heat for 1 hour. While cooking, stir occasionally so that the vegetables don't stick to the bottom of the pot. In the middle of cooking, add the parsley and basil.
  3. Discard the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind when the minestrone is cooked.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. When the soup is cooked, turn off the heat, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggianio.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

Peek inside an Italian kitchen to see how traditional minestrone soup is made
Image: Brandi Bidot/SheKnows

one-pot wonder
Image: SheKnows

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