Warming winter soup: Green minestrone

Nourish body and soul with one of Nici Wickes’ favourite soups – a sustaining blend of beans, pasta and greens – plus she shares flavour combinations for more comforting soups to see you through the chilly months.

Is there anything more triumphant than a bowl of steaming soup on a cold day? To my mind, no. I’m always amazed at how much flavour can be derived from throwing a few simple, affordable ingredients into a pot, then waiting patiently while it gently bubbles away, manifesting its magic.

This green minestrone soup has everything going for it; cheap to make, nutritious, scrumptious. I prefer it to the original tomato-based version – somehow it feels more wholesome – and I couldn’t resist giving you a few other recipe suggestions (below) to hone your soup-making skills. Nourishing and substantial enough to qualify as dinner.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 small lemon, halved
  • 1 cup pasta shells
  • 400g can pinto or cannellini beans, drained
  • 3 cups, packed, chopped spinach leaves (you can use frozen spinach)
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 4 tablespoons homemade or store-bought pesto
  • Olive oil to drizzle

Method

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan to medium. Add the onion and celery and fry until vegetables are soft – about 7-8 minutes. Add the stock, lemon halves and pasta. Cook for 10 minutes until the pasta is nearly cooked, then add the spinach and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Squish the lemon to release the juice into the soup. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.

2. Serve in bowls, topped with a dollop of pesto and a drizzle of olive oil.

Try these soup combinations:

  • Mushrooms sautéed with butter and thyme, then thinned with stock and served with crème fraiche.
  • Roasted pumpkin, blitzed with hot stock (vege or chicken) and orange zest, served with a sprinkle of nutmeg and a drizzle of cream.
  • Cooked parsnip blitzed with half and half stock and cream, served with crumbled blue cheese and chives.


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