Minestrone with roasted vegetables, haricot beans & chard

Roasting the vegetables is the real key to success in this soup, they dehydrate and concentrate in flavour in the oven, and it also helps them to keep their shape in the liquid. The parmesan rind is an old trick, and one really worth a go if you haven’t tried it before. It adds a savoury depth to the soup and really fills out the flavour. Save up your parmesan rinds for this, or ask at your local deli. I’ve also popped some crunchy kale chips on the soup, you can find the recipe here.

Ingredients

125 grams small dried haricot or cannellini beans, soaked overnight (or use 250 grams drained tinned beans, but add them at the
end of the cooking)
3 carrots, rough 3 cm dice
3 parsnips, rough 3 cm dice
3 white sweet potatoes, rough 3 cm dice
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
extra virgin olive oil
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
2 large brown onions, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 bulb fennel, diced
3 cm-thick piece pancetta, diced
1 fresh bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons tomato paste
10 cm piece parmesan rind (optional)
1½ litres quality chicken stock (preferably homemade)
200 grams green beans, cut into 4 cm lengths
½ bunch chard or silverbeet, cut into 2 cm widths including most of the stem
2 handfuls any short pasta
Grana Padano, finely grated, to serve

Method

Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan-forced or 200˚C conventional.

Cook the soaked beans in simmering water for 20 minutes, or until just tender. Keep the beans a little on the firmer side, as they’ll be cooked further in the soup.

Meanwhile, toss the carrot, parsnip, sweet potato and fennel seeds in oil, season and tip onto a lined baking tray. Roast for 30 minutes.

Add a splash of oil to a large, heavy-based pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, fennel and pancetta and sweat, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. Add the bay leaf, thyme and tomato paste to the pot and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Add the roasted vegetables, cooked beans, Parmesan rind, stock and 1 litre of water and bring to a simmer. Add the green beans and chard and cook for 15 minutes. Add the pasta for the last 8 minutes of cooking. Keep an eye on the liquid level, it should be a thick soup but you may have to add a little more water.

Once cooked, adjust the seasoning (remove the parmesan rind if you like, but it will keep imparting flavour if you’re not serving all the soup at once) and serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, grated parmesan and, as an option, some crunchy kale chips.

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