It is essentially a peasant soup — very rustic and comforting. It is pronounced the way it is spelled; no long “o” and long “i”, and no silent “e”.
I used to simmer minestrone in the slow cooker. But since my older daughter, Sam, changed her diet by giving up mammals, I’ve modified the cooking process so that we omnivores have meat in our minestrone while Sam’s is meatless.
I start by sauteeing garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Then I add onion and tomatoes and continue sauteeing until the tomatoes soften and the onion appears translucent.
Diced bell peppers are stirred in and passata is poured in. Passata is an Italian uncooked tomato puree that had been strained to remove the skins and seeds. It is available in some groceries but, if you can’t find it, you may use tomato sauce or a can of diced tomatoes.
Water is added. Oregano and bay leaves go in. Cubes carrots are dumped in and this is where the simmering begins. It is the cooking over low temperature that blends the beautiful flavors together. So, while it’s tempting to shorten the cooking time by keeping the heat on high, don’t.
Cabbage is stirred in and the simmering continues until the leaves soften a bit. Now, here’s where I create meaty and meatless versions of minestrone. I take out a portion of the contents of the pot and put it in a smaller pan. That’s for Sam. To the vegetables in the larger pot, I add sliced sausages.
Eggplants go into both the meaty and meatless minestrone, simmered for a few minutes before zucchini is added. The simmering continues until the vegetables are soft but not mushy.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic - lightly pounded
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 tomatoes - chopped
- 2 bell peppers - dices
- 2 cups passata - available in groceries (or substitute good quality tomato sauce)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 to 2 sprigs oregano - stripped
- 2 cups cubed carrots
- 3 to 4 cups shredded cabbage
- 3 to 4 garlicky sausages - sliced into rings
- 2 cups cubes eggplants
- 2 cups cubed zucchini
- Heat the olive oil in a small pan.
- Saute the garlic just until softened then add the onion, tomatoes and bell pepper, and continue sauteeing for a minute.
- Pour in the passata and about a cup of water.
- Taste. Add salt and pepper.
- Add the carrot, oregano and bay leaves. Stir.
- Add the cabbage, stir and simmer until the leaves are starting to soften, about 20 minutes.
- Throw in the sliced sausages, stir and simmer for a minute.
- Add the eggplants, stir and simmer for five minutes.
- Stir in the zucchini cubes and continue cooking for another five to ten minutes.
- Taste the broth. If too bland, add salt or pepper, or both, as needed.
- Serve your minestrone with pasta, rice or bread.