For me, soup is the perfect winter comfort food for those days when you just want to curl up in a blanket, watch Netflix and eat warming, satisfying food. Soup is basically a hug in a bowl. Minestrone ticks all the boxes, as well as being super healthy as it always contributes to your five a day. Whatsmore, the pasta or rice you choose to add give you a nice boost of carbohydrates to provide the energy that you need to get up and out on a cold, grey Edinburgh day.
So you might be thinking, surely a meal that good is complicated to make and needs a whole heap of ingredients that I definitely won’t have in my half-empty cupboard, right? Wrong. The beauty of this dish is that you can make it your own by using what you have in: chuck in some leftover chicken, or some past-their-best peppers or even some cabbage. Add your own twist by using broken up spaghetti or rice instead of the usual dried pasta.
Follow these next few guidelines and just substitute a sweet potato for a carrot where you need to!
To start, fry off an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in a little bit of oil until soft and brown.
Next: veg. Carrots, celery and potatoes are the usual staples of minestrone and give a hearty, flavoursome base to the soup, but if you don’t have them any other root vegetable would also work very well. Fry these off with the onion and garlic for another couple of minutes and add dried oregano and/or thyme if you have them.
Next add enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables by about a centimeter. Bring to the boil, and then let it simmer until the potatoes are soft, and can be pierced easily with a sharp knife.
Now, add the pasta of your choice, macaroni works best as it holds its shape, but pasta shells or broken up bits of penne or fusili would work too. Just before the pasta is cooked I like to add frozen peas and a tin of cooked beans or chickpeas because they’re cheap: Cook until your pasta and frozen veg are ‘al dente,’ and then you’re almost done.
The final ingredient is pesto. Store-bought pesto is incredible, and should be a staple in many students’ cupboard, but if you want to go the extra mile and make your own it’s a lot simpler than you think! To make your pesto, blitz up a handful of fresh basil, a small handful of pine nuts, a grating of parmesan (leave this out if you want it to be dairy-free), a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Season to taste and hey pesto! Stir a couple of tablespoons into your soup, it makes a massive difference and gives a huge flavour boost. Serve with crusty bread.
Image : Vegetarian Recipe Club via Flickr