Right now is a great time of year to be eating kale. Although it’s available all year round in it’s curly variety in most supermarkets, it’s in season between September and February and so at this time of year you might be able to get your mitts on some more interesting varieties. Plus, we’re all trying to be a little virtuous in January, and kale is a vitamin and mineral dense vegetable, packed with Vitamin C, calcium and beta carotene (which no-one really knows what it is, but hey-ho it sounds super healthy). The kale I’ve used in this recipe was grown by my dad at his allotment and is called cavolo nero (“black cabbage” in Italian, where the variety originates). If you can find cavolo nero to use in this recipe then great – it goes perfectly in stews and soups – but if not then use any kale or cabbage that you like.
This recipe is the godsend of all store-cupboard meals. I do think that the combinations below work particularly well, but the beauty is that you can use whatever veggies you have in the vegetable drawer, whatever meat (bacon, sausages, chorizo would all be great) you have in the fridge and any type of beans or pasta shape that you have in the cupboard.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
100g (about 6 rashers) streaky bacon
1 white onion
2 medium carrots
2 celery sticks
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp tomato puree
1.5l vegetable stock
1 tin or carton of chopped tomato
6-8 large cavolo nero leaves
1 tin cannellini beans
Salt and pepper
Optional topping suggestions: basil pesto, grated parmesan, chopped basil, chopped parsley, croutons
2. Finely chop the onion and garlic, thinly slice the celery and dice the carrot.
Fry altogether in the remaining bacon fat (topped up with a little olive oil if necessary) for 10 minutes until soft.
3. Stir in the tomato puree and then add the stock and chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.
4. Add the crisp bacon, kale, spaghetti and beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve piping hot at the table
This soup will absolutely stand up as a meal in itself, but serve with some crusty bread and real butter for a special treat or to make the servings go further.
I highly, highly recommend serving this with a generous dollop of fresh pesto. I had the idea because we had a half-used, shop-bought tub sitting in the fridge, leftover from pizza-making the night before, but it was such an amazing accompaniment that I had to whizz up some more the second night that we ate this soup. You can find my recipe for homemade pesto here – give it a go, you’ll thank me! A little grating of parmesan on top will also be welcomed here, as would chopped basil or parsley or even some crunchy croutons.
Do you have a go-to minestrone recipe? What are your favourite secret ingredients or toppings?