An onion, a few carrots, some beans … On paper, a minestrone does not say much, but in practice, it seems to defy the odds with its soothing, warming properties. How can a bunch of commonplace vegetables collectively turn into a bowl of such extreme comfort and joy? Use lots of herbs, if you can, plenty of parmesan and the best olive oil you can muster. You can, of course, cook your beans from scratch, but, as you will find here, you do not have to for great results. This is the perfect February WFH lunch.
Cavolo nero and borlotti bean minestrone
The steely green from the cavolo nero, pepperiness from the olive oil and creaminess from the beans and cheese makes this a moreish, nourishing dish.
Prep 15 min
Cook 45 min
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 handful fresh herbs (thyme, bay and/or rosemary)
Salt and black pepper
500g cavolo nero (or savoy cabbage), stems removed, leaves roughly shredded
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, drained and rinsed
2 x 400g tins borlotti and/or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 600g freshly cooked beans)
Parmesan, to serve
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
Warm the oil in a deep, heavy-based pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs and a big pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are collapsed, soft and sweet.
Meanwhile, bring a deep pan of well-salted water to a boil and blanch the cabbage until tender. Drain, reserving the cooking water.
Stir the tomatoes into the softened vegetables, breaking them up between your hands or with a wooden spoon as they go in, and continue cooking for five to seven minutes. Add the beans (and a little of their cooking water if you cooked them from scratch) and, using a stick blender, puree about half the mixin the pan to make it velvety and thick.
Add the cabbage and pour over about 1.5 litres of its cooking water (you may need less if you added some bean cooking water earlier), until the vegetables are just covered. Season, taste, then season again, if needed. Bring up to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, until you have a rich, thick soup.
Serve in warmed bowls with grated parmesan and plenty of extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle over. This soup keeps beautifully for up to a week, and gets better with every passing day.
And for the rest of the week …
Freeze any leftover herbs in labelled bags so you can use them for other dishes; or make a herb oil to drizzle over this soup for added va-va-voom.
Thomasina Miers is chef and food writer. She is a former MasterChef winner and founder of the Wahaca group of Mexican restaurants