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About this recipe: This minestrone makes the most of winter vegetables, and is full of vitamin goodness. Beans and pasta make it even more nourishing. Serve with chunks of fresh country-style bread for a satisfying meal.

Norma MacMillan

Serves: 6 

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3–4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200 g (7 oz) dried cannellini or borlotti beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 can plum tomatoes in juice, about 400 g
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 200 g (7 oz) carrots, finely diced
  • 150 g (5½ oz) swede, finely diced
  • 150 g (5½ oz) celeriac, finely diced
  • 250 g (8½ oz) peeled pumpkin flesh, finely diced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 allspice berries, finely crushed
  • 200 g (7 oz) potatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • 150 g (5½ oz) green beans, cut into short lengths
  • 100 g (3½ oz) small pasta shapes, such as farfallini (bows) or conchigliette (shells), or broken-up spaghetti
  • 125 g (4½ oz) spinach, chopped
  • 4 tbsp shredded fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 55 g (2 oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, to serve

Prep:30min  ›  Cook:1hr30min  ›  Ready in:2hr 

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, cover and cook for 4–5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. Add the cannellini or borlotti beans and pour in 2 litres (3 1/2 pints) water. Bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a fork, then add the tomato purée, carrots, swede, celeriac and pumpkin. Stir in the thyme, bay leaf and crushed allspice. Bring back to simmering point, then cover the pan again and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the potatoes and green beans. Continue simmering, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the pasta and cook, still covered, for a further 10 minutes or until the cannellini or borlotti beans are tender and the pasta is cooked.
  4. Add the spinach and basil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 2–3 minutes until the spinach has wilted. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and serve at once, with the Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.

Some more ideas

Butternut squash or any other type of squash can be used instead of the pumpkin. * Add 100 g (3½ oz) rinded and chopped lean smoked back bacon with the onion and garlic in step 1. Alternatively, crisp-fried Parma ham can be sprinkled over the soup when serving.

Plus points

Beans and pulses are an excellent source of soluble fibre. Unfortunately they can produce unpleasant side effects such as wind and bloating. To prevent this, be sure to cook them thoroughly – undercooked beans are difficult to digest and thus more likely to cause wind. * Pasta scores healthily low on the Glycaemic Index, which means that it breaks down slowly into glucose and glycogen in the body, providing long-lasting energy.

Each serving provides

A, C, folate * B1, B6, B12, E, niacin

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