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Spring-Summer Minestrone With Maltagliati

Minestrone – simply, big soup – is a great dish to make with any seasonal vegetables and, in this spring or summer version, you can add either late asparagus, early courgettes or the first potatoes and carrots to your base of onions, celery and garlic. You can add in any extra vegetables you have – half a leek or a handful of fresh spinach, whatever you have to hand really – it’s a very easy-going soup. Like most soups, it almost always tastes better the next day so it’s worth making a large potful. If you do have leftovers, keep a little of the fresh herb salsa to top up each bowl too – it really adds a fresh zing.

Serves 6

  • a large handful or two maltagliati (whatever you have left over from rolling)
  • 150g/5½oz dried cannellini or borlotti beans, soaked overnight
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little extra for the herb salsa
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 celery sticks, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, or a handful of baby carrots, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 courgettes, sliced or cut into cubes
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into small chunks>
  • 700ml/1¼ pints vegetable or chicken stock
  • bunch of basil, picked
  • ½ bunch of mint, picked
  • handful of parsley
  • 6 asparagus spears, trimmed and sliced
  • Parmesan, pangrattato or nutritional yeast, to serve

Drain the beans and add to a medium pot. Cover generously with fresh water, bring it to the boil, then cover and simmer for 45–60 minutes. There’s no need to season the beans as it will just toughen up the skins. When they are soft but still retaining some bite, take off the heat and leave to one side.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan and fry the onions for 5 minutes until they soften a little, then add the celery, carrots, garlic and bay leaves and continue cooking on a medium heat for 10–15 minutes, turning occasionally to make sure the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Add the courgettes and potatoes and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, then tip in the beans with their remaining cooking water. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down so that the soup is simmering gently – you should barely see a bubble popping on the surface – then partially cover with a lid and continue to cook for one hour.

In the meantime, finely chop all the herbs and mix together in a bowl, then add just enough olive oil to combine the herbs into a rough paste.

At the end of the hour the minestrone will have made your kitchen smell beautiful. Remove the bay leaves (if you can find them in the depths of the pot – if not just watch out for them when serving). Season to taste with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finally, turn up the heat, drop the maltagliati into the pot with the asparagus and cook for a further 3 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook the pasta in a separate pan until it is al dente, drain, then add it to the soup.

Turn off the heat and allow the soup to sit for a while – it’s not traditional to serve it piping hot. If the soup thickens too much, add a little hot water or more stock if you like.

Ladle into shallow bowls, add a spoonful of the herby salsa and finish with your favourite topping – Parmesan, pangrattato or nutritional yeast.