I love to try new recipes, but I also have a handful that I've returned to time and time again until I know it by heart (and get brave enough to try variations). Emilia Romagna minestrone is one of those go-to meals - and it's the reason why at any given time of the year you'll find a bag full of parmesan rinds in my fridge. Dumping a rind or two into the stew - leftovers that I used to chuck, oh the horror! - is the key to elevating this soup from a veggie mish-mash to something incredibly tasty (and more-ish). It's also really easy, very cheap and great for feeding a crowd, as I found out last weekend when I made a big pot for the crew working on Michael's film (and a couple of neighbours, too). If you're feeding vegetarians, like I was, omit the pancetta; if you're paleo, leave out the chickpeas/garbanzos.
Serves 4 big bowls, 6-7 smaller
1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, sliced
100g pancetta, chopped (optional, and if you can't find pancetta, prosciutto works)
4 sticks celery, diced
1 bunch Swiss chard or silverbeet, chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
½ bunch parsley, chopped (including stalks)
400g/14 oz tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional)
2 tbsp tomato paste
Good Italian parmesan, grated and rind saved
Salt and pepper
1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, leek and pancetta; cook for three to five mins. Add remaining vegetables and cook for 5 mins or until softened, stirring.
2. Add tomato paste, stir and add water to just cover ingredients. Add parmesan rind, salt and pepper; simmer for a minimum of 40 minutes.
3. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with grated parmesan and black pepper.