When God shaped the Italian Peninsula not only he made it beautiful but he also blessed it with a rich soil that allows the farming of an immense variety of local products that is unrivalled on a global scale. Every area you visit a different local product you find, which is made unique by the local microclimatic conditions, the specific soil, the minerals, the exposure to the sunlight and so on.
Just to mentions some of them think of the Squared Peppers from Asti, the Round and Gentle Hazelnut of Piedmont, the San Marzano Tomatoes from Naples, the Red Radicchio salad of Treviso, the Chili peppers from Soverato, the Lentils from Castelluccio di Norcia, the sweet Onion from Tropea…and the list would endlessly continue.
Although Italy is not a vegetarian Country, being that a personal choice of each individual not linked to any specific religious belief or societal need, the vegetable-based recipes are countless and vary from one region to another and base on seasonality of the raw materials. Beside the several local recipes there are some that span across the overall national territory and are considered sort of a national culinary heritage. It is not by chance that UNESCO decided to include the so-called “Mediterranean diet” among the intangible world heritage for the health support value of these local products and the cooking processes.
Therefore, if you want to start cooking veggies the Italian style you should start from the basic: the Minestrone
The Minestrone is a very simple vegetable soup that everyone can do which also is pretty quick to make, except for the time you need to spend for cleaning and preparing the vegetables. You have to consider that an exact recipe for this soup does not exist. Minestrone is mostly a “concept” rather than a recipe as ingredients vary a lot based on seasonality and geographical area. The final result changes quite a lot every time you make it as vegetable do not have standard sizes and your personal taste may like it with more of this and less of that, or you may include even legumes to make it more consistent and to increase its nutritional value.
Therefore, I cannot provide you with a definitive recipe, I just tell you what I did yesterday based on the veggies I found at the market. You can change the list of ingredients as you like, just follow the procedure which also is very very simple.
Ingredients to serve 4 up to 6 people
- 2 Carrots
- 2 Zucchini
- Half Cauliflower (or even a little less)
- 1 onion
- A bunch of spinach
- 2 potatoes
- 1 salad tomato
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt to taste
Wash all the vegetables carefully to remove all the dust.
Peel the potatoes and the carrots with a peeler and the onion with a simple knife. Boil the tomato for just 1 minute, the skin will come out very easily.
Cut the Cauliflower in a way to get several small flowers
Dice all the vegetables and put them in separate bowls based on the hardness of each: it is important to keep the vegetable separate because they have different cooking time and you must avoid over-boiling.
Put carrots and potatoes in a big pot. Add 2 litres of water, a pinch of salt and put the port on the fire. When the water starts to boil wait 10 minutes, then add the Cauliflower and let it boil for 5 minutes, then add the Zucchini and the onion and let boil for 5 more minutes, then add the tomato and keep boiling for 10 more minutes.
Total boiling time should be approximately 30 minutes but remember that if you add legumes, you have to put them in the pot first and cooking time may go up to 1 hour or more.
Now take the plates, put 2 ladleful of sup in each, dress with a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sprinkle a spoonful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano Dop or Grana Padano Cheese and some grated nutmeg.
If you like it creamy you can mash it with an immersion blender until you get to a smooth vegetable soup (Passato di Verdura). I call it the “Rainbow Soup” as its colour may span from an orange shade (when there is some pumpkin in it) to a light beige (when you add legumes) up to a dark green (when you add more spinach).
|Nutrition Facts per portion|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7.4g||9%|
|Saturated Fat 1.1g||5%|
|Total Carbohydrate 27.9g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber 6g||21%|
|Total Sugars 6.8g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|