Minestrone alla genovese

FrankLiguria, primi piatti, Soups21 Comments

Minestrone alla genovese

We’ve taken on minestrone before, with a base recipe that you can use to make just about any variation you want. But minestrone alla genovese, Genoa Style Minestrone, is different enough it really does merit its own post.

There’s no soffritto to create a flavor base, no preliminary rosolatura of the vegetables. You just simmer beans and then all the rest of the vegetables in water, with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. And perhaps a Parmesan rind if you have one on hand. From the recipe you might think this soup would be utterly boring, but in fact it’s quite delicious. It gets its flavor from the vegetables themselves, enhanced by—what else, this being Liguria—a final enrichment of pesto genovese.

Ingredients

  • 200 g (1 cup) dried beans, preferably borlotti
  • 1 medium leek
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 150g (5 oz) green beans
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/4 small head of green cabbage, preferably of the Savoy variety
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) Swiss chard leaves (or spinach)
  • 1-2 small potatoes
  • 1/4 small pumpkin (about 250g/8 oz), skinned and seeded
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 piece of Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 200g (7 oz) ditalini or other soup pasta (see Notes)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the final enrichment:

Directions

Let the beans soak overnight. Discard the soaking water and replace with fresh water to cover them well. Simmer in a large pot until nearly tender, about an hour.

While the beans are simmering, trim and cut up all the other vegetables into a small dice, a bit like this:

When the beans have cooked sufficiently, add the vegetables to the pot and enough water to cover them by a good 3cm/1 inch, along with a drizzle of olive oil and a good pinch of salt, and the Parmesan rind if using. Simmer gently for a good 45 minutes.

Take a ladleful or two of the soup and purée it in a blender. Add back to the pot, along with the pasta and, if things look too thick or dry, more water. Simmer for another 8-10 minutes, mixing from time to time to avoid scorching or sticking, until the pasta is done.

Let the soup rest for a few minutes, then mix in the pesto before serving.

Minestrone alla genovese

Notes on Minestrone genovese

In a minestrone alla genovese, there is a strong emphasis on the green vegetables you typically find in the local cookery. Green beans, for example, which you’ll often find as here paired with potatoes in trenette col pesto. Then there’s the zucchini, Swiss chard and Savoy cabbage. But do feel free to vary your vegetables according to the season and what you have on hand. I used pumpkin since they’ve just come into season, and you might want to replace the beans with peas in the spring, for example, or leave out the eggplant in the winter.

And, as usual, precise measurements not all that important. Don’t hesitate to throw in those extra few green beans you’ve found at the back of your produce bin. In fact, you could think of minestrone alla genovese—any sort of minestrone, really—as the kind of dish Italians call svuotafrigo, or “clear out the fridge”. But along with your creativity and frugality, do use your common sense. Try to balance the flavors, and avoid strongly flavored veg like peppers that would overwhelm the others.

The Parmesan rind is optional but it adds a lovely extra layer of flavor. Omit it if you are eating vegan, of course. Some recipes call for broth, but the soup has plenty of savor without it.

The beans

They say that for a truly authentic minestrone alla genovese you should use grixi and belin beans, heritage varietals native to Liguria. These days, most recipes call for borlotti, the beautiful coral colored beans.

If you can’t find borlotti, which can be a bit elusive in some markets, cannellini or another mildly flavored bean will do fine. And if you want to save time and trouble, you can actually used canned beans as well, which you could add about halfway through the simmering time. Canned beans are a great convenience and, truth be told, in soups and stews the difference between canned and dried beans is actually pretty subtle. In this recipe, though, you’ll lose the good flavor from the beans’ simmering liquid, which adds mightily to its depth of flavor. On the other hand, if you can land yourself some fresh borlotti beans, sometime available in the early summer around here, just shell them and add them to the pot along with all the other vegetables.

The pasta

As we’ve discussed before, factory-made pasta shapes can be roughly divided into three categories. First are long pastas like spaghetti or linguine. Second come short pastas like penne or rigatoni. And finally soup pastas, usually very small, like the tubular ditalini or the tiny acini di pepe (aka “peppercorns”). It’s this third category of soup pastas that you want for your minestrone alla genovese. Indeed, you want to use these for soups in general, as the name implies. Their small shape makes them eatable with a soup spoon. Indeed, soup pastas are sometimes called ‘spoon pastas’. Rice can also be substituted for the pasta if you like it better. Or you can leave it out altogether if you’re avoiding carbs or just prefer it that way.

Making Ahead Notes

Minestrone alla genovese can also be enjoyed in the warm weather months freddo. Literally means cold but in this case it really just means that the soup has been left to cool until its reached room temperature.

In fact, like a lot of soups, minestrone alla genovese improves after an overnight rest. But in that case it’s best to stop before you add the pasta or the pesto. Bring the soup back to a simmer, then finish the soup by adding the pasta (and some more water if needed) and proceed with the recipe from there.

If you wind up with leftovers of the finished soup, the next day you’ll notice that the pasta will have doubled in size and absorbed all of the liquid. This will leave you with a very thick stew-like soup. I actually rather like my minestrone that way, but if you don’t, just add a bit of water as you gently reheat it. The pasta will be quite soft but the soup will perfectly enjoyable.

Minestrone alla genovese

Genoa Style Vegetable Soup
Cook Time2 hrs
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Liguria
Keyword: soup, vegetable

Ingredients

  • 200 g (1 cup) 200 g (1 cup) dried beans preferably borlotti
  • 1 medium leek
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 150 g (5 oz) green beans
  • 1 medium 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/4 small head green cabbage preferably of the Savoy variety
  • 100 g (3-1/2 oz) 100g (3-1/2 oz) Swiss chard leaves (or spinach)
  • 1-2 small 1-2 small potatoes
  • 1/4 small pumpkin (about 250g/8 oz) skinned and seeded
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 piece Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 200 g (7 oz) 200g (7 oz) ditalini or other soup pasta (see Notes)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For final enrichment

  • 1 batch homemade pesto

Instructions

  • Let the beans soak overnight. Discard the soaking water and replace with fresh water to cover them well. Simmer in a large pot until nearly tender, about an hour.
  • While the beans are simmering, trim and cut up all the other vegetables into a small dice,
  • When the beans have cooked sufficiently, add the vegetables to the pot and enough water to cover them by a good 3cm/1 inch, along with a drizzle of olive oil and a good pinch of salt, and the Parmesan rind if using. Simmer gently for a good 45 minutes.
  • Take a ladleful or two of the soup and purée it in a blender. Add back to the pot, along with the pasta and, if things look too thick or dry, more water. Simmer for another 8-10 minutes, mixing from time to time to avoid scorching or sticking, until the pasta is done.
  • Let the soup rest for a few minutes, then mix in the pesto before serving.

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21 Comments on “Minestrone alla genovese”

  1. There is nothing better than a good soup. My mamma made many versions of minestrone — all depending on the season. I will have to try your version. It sounds so good. I won’t even have to wait fo cooler weather.

  2. It takes a special soup to get my attention, because I just make so many with what I feel like throwing into the pot! Unless it’s an involved chef’s recipe, and I try to be more respectful. But this one is outstanding. Thank you!

  3. I love a good minestrone soup, and we’re absolutely hitting soup season here in upstate New York. It also happens to be about the time that I pull all the basil from the garden to make pesto. I freeze most of it, but I’ll have to leave some out to make this Genoa-style minestrone. The timing is perfect, and this sounds delicious, Frank!

  4. I never liked my mum or nonna’s minestrone when I was little (maybe even not now), but this looks and sounds really good to me! I’d give this version a try! 🙂

    1. Definitely worth a try, Christina! Minestrone is one of my go to dishes, especially when I want to eat light but still want something satisfying.

  5. Frank, I love a good minestrone and your Minestrone alla genovese is surely going t o be cooked, eaten and loved over this way. What a great mix of veggies that are still in abundance over this way. Oh, and adding Parmesan rind is never optional, but a must add in a minestrone that graces my stove-top. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Ron! I do agree, there’s nothing like a bit of Parmesan rind to add that extra layer of flavor. Hope you enjoy this. 🙂

  6. Shall definitely make this . . . . the eye appeal is considerable to begin with ! And I did not expect my favourite eggplant in the mix . . . .surely a very healthy and fulfilling meal with just some bread alongside . . .

    1. The eggplant is a bit of a suprise, Eha. But it works nicely here. It melts completely into the soup, of course, and adds a nice flavor. And yes, definitely can be a meal in itself!

  7. This is exactly the type of soup that I love to make and eat! Have you tried purée-ing it the day after? I find the beans add and incredible creamy texture but the colour might be off. Definitely putting this on my list as the days get cooler.

  8. Really interesting recipe. I often add veggies to soup towards the end, but usually I’ll saute them first. I’ll definitely be giving this method a try. Probably in this very soup — really like the recipe. Thanks!

  9. This is so appealing – visually as well as for its healthy properties and ease. I will pick up the veggies at the market tomorrow and look forward to bread and soup for Sunday supper. Besides, I have a gargantuan basil plant that needs to be shorn!

    1. We enjoyed this thoroughly this evening with some homemade bread. Chard is out of season for a couple of more weeks, but we used some baby kale and it was just fine. Thanks, Frank – Love this minestrone!

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