Xanthan-Free Zone

Real food, incidentally gluten-free.

Archive for Soup

Minestrone with Rice

I always thought minestrone had to have pasta in it to be minestrone, but the recipe from which mine is adapted, from Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cookbook, doesn’t even mention pasta. Instead, it’s served with rice in it, to make it more substantial. Or you can just have as is.

This soup is very delicious — it’s hard to believe something that only has vegetables in it could taste so rich and complex.


4 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
1-2 onions, sliced
2 carrots
1 stick celery
1 large or two small potatoes
1 zucchini
Handful green beans
1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage (preferably savoy)
2-3 ripe tomatoes
400g tin cannellini or borlotti beans, or 1 1/2 cups of home-cooked beans
2 stock cubes or a carton of stock (optional)
Random vegetables for stock (optional)
Salt and pepperĀ 

To serve:
Arborio rice
Parmesan cheese, basil leaves, pine nuts OR

Get two saucepans, a stockpot and a medium-sized saucepan. Boil water in the medium-sized saucepan. I use this for making stock as I cook. Just add any celery leaves, carrot tops/peel, ends of beans, outer leaves of cabbage, as you go, and then when it comes time to add stock to the vegetables, you’ll have it ready. You can supplement with any other radish leaves, crusty silverbeet stems, excess onions, tops of leeks and spring onions, whatever you might have in the fridge. You could even chuck a few chunks of beef in there if you were that way inclined.

In the stockpot, heat the oil and butter. Slice the onions and fry, with the lid on, on medium heat, until the onions are translucent and have lost that raw onion smell, but aren’t heavily browned. This can take 10 or 15 minutes, and shouldn’t be hurried, because well-cooked onions make a lot of difference to the flavour. While you’re waiting, dice the carrots. In this recipe, each ingredient is added in turn, in the order listed, so each gets cooked as you are dicing up the next one. So, you can dice in a leisurely manner, enjoy a cup of tea, chat on the phone, wash a couple of dishes as you’re going, there’s no hurry. If the vegetables start to stick or the saucepan seems to hot, just add a little of the stock you’re boiling on the side and turn down the element a fraction.

Once the tomatoes have cooked down a little, you can add the stock you’ve been making on the side, and any bought stock or cubes. The stock should completely cover the soup, and come another inch up the saucepan. This is the point where you add the beans, and once they have heated through, you can actually eat the soup. I kind of like this early-minestrone phase, where the tomatoes have just collapsed and you can taste all the individual vegetables, but for the real deal you should keep boiling it for a while, however long until you get hungry. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve with rice, I heat another saucepan (you can use the one you were using for the stock), then add a cup of minestrone and a quarter cup of water per person, plus a handful of arborio rice per person. Bring to the boil, then cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the rice is soft. The reason for using a second saucepan, is that I would generally assume a batch of minestrone leads to leftovers, and you don’t want any rice in the leftovers, because it will go all weird and gluggy.

Toast the pine nuts if you’re having then, cut basil leaves, grate parmesan. Check salt again, and serve out. If having pesto, about one teaspoon per person dropped in the middle of the bowl is nice. If other things, just a sprinkle of each.