Spring Minestrone

Serves 4–6
Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 55 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 potato, peeled and diced
125 g (4 oz) peas or broad beans, thawed if frozen
1 courgette, diced
125 g (4 oz) green beans, trimmed and cut into 3.5 cm (1½ inch) pieces
125 g (4 oz) plum tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable stock
75 g (3 oz) small pasta shapes
10 basil leaves, torn
salt and pepper
To serve olive oil grated Parmesan cheese

Spring Minestrone

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat, add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the potato, peas or broad beans, courgette and green beans and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are very tender.

Add the pasta and basil to the soup and cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Serve with toasted country bread or Parmesan toasts (see below).

For Parmesan toasts, to serve as an accompaniment, toast 4–6 slices of ciabatta on one side only under a preheated medium grill. Brush the other side with 2–3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with chilli flakes and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, then cook under the preheated grill until golden and crisp.

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