This recipe is inspired by the minestrone recipe in Artusi's cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (1891), in which Artusi himself instructs is adaptable to your own tastes and what you find in the vegetable patch. More than a recipe, Artusi's is a description of what to put in it. He actually calls for "a little " tomato passata (or paste) but doesn't say how much. I do love that about old cookbooks, though—how recipes are really just guidelines.
The idea here is to take advantage of fresh, seasonal ingredients rather than looking at this as an opportunity to clear out the sad-looking scraps at the bottom of the crisper drawer in the fridge. This is a soup that you can make beautiful no matter what the season: If the greens aren't in season, use other vegetables such as fresh peas in spring or more root vegetables in winter.
If you want to make this more substantial, use beef stock as the base rather than vegetable stock. A little trick to add some flavor to a vegetable soup is also to throw in the thick rind of Parmesan cheese when you can no longer grate anything else from it: It adds lovely flavor and when it’s softened in the warm soup, you can eat it, too (strict vegetarians, just be aware that real Parmesan cheese is made with real animal rennet). If you want something lighter, stick to vegetable stock and you can also leave out the beans and the pasta, rice, or farro. —Emiko
4 to 6
handful of parsley, both stalk and leaves, chopped finely
slices of pancetta or prosciutto, chopped
clove of garlic, chopped finely
small onion, diced
stalk of celery, chopped
medium carrot, chopped
small potato, peeled and sliced or diced
small zucchini, diced
big handfuls of greens (cabbage, spinach, chard, or a mixture), rinsed and roughly chopped
14-ounce (400-gram) tin borlotti beans, drained (or a handful of fresh borlotti beans, simmered until tender)
Half of a 14-ounce (400-gram) tin of whole, peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped (or 2 or 3 fresh Roma tomatoes)
rice, farro, or small pasta such as risoni, stelline
(1 liter) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
toasted slices of bread for each bowl, for serving (optional)
Gently sauté the chopped parsley, pancetta, and garlic in 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot for 1 minute. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and bay leaves and continue cooking until the onion begins to become translucent.
Add the rest of the vegetables, beans, tomato, and rice (or farro or pasta). Season with salt and pepper. Cover with stock, bring to the boil and place a lid on top and cook until the vegetables are tender. Check for seasoning.
Serve the minestrone with a piece of toasted bread in the bottom or on the side of the bowl, and sprinkle over grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Artusi likes to put the Parmesan directly into the pot at the end rather than serve it on top.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.