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!