Meatfree Monday: Italian Minestrone della Nonna.

Nothing swells this Mamma’s heart more than a request for one of my recipes. Daniele has just given up smoking and is on a health and fitness drive.

Minestrone topped with Basil Peso & Parmesan Cheese


His darling of a girlfriend Suzanne, is mindful of eating too much meat, doesn’t smoke and is the gentle and supportive hand that is holding his as he climbs this mountain.Daniele is very much a chip off the old block and can be a bit extravagant in the kitchen and rarely looks at the cost of food in the supermarket. But this is all changing and he has asked me to post three cost effective budget soup recipes. He particularly asked me to start off with my minestrone recipe which is just so versatile and one of his favourites. I ALWAYS have frozen bags of this in my freezer ready and waiting to warm someone’s tummy together with a jar of basil pesto in my fridge with which to anoint it with.

Nonna would tell me how Minestrone was the backbone of Italy in the war years and mostly served her minestrone with a little cooked pasta in it. The joy of minestrone is that, with just a little tweaking you can change its identity and texture into three different dishes. Max, aka. Mr Smith is not as keen on vegetables as his brother and minestrone was my secret veggie weapon when he was a little boy. He loved it – bursting with every single veggie on the planet! All I had to do was liquidise it with a dash of cream and Max would gobble down bucket loads of it. He would take the inside of a bread roll and roll it into little blobs , plonk them into his soup and proclaim that he had found a prawn in his soup!! He still does this…..



1 Large Pot will feed 20 people

Now Daniele, remember that you are going to be making a big pot of this soup so you can freeze portions for another day. You should get at least 20 – 25 portions of soup from this recipe. I know that there are loads of veggies here, but there is no meat in this dish so cost wise this is a real winner. The more veggies the more flavour – it’s a simple as that and your broth is perfect to make a nice cheesey Stracciatella soup with.

You must have a good vegetable market somewhere in Cape Town – or look for a good early Saturday Morning Farmers Market. You will get great, fresh vegetables at a good price. Buy in bulk; you can make a great Red Thai Vegetable Curry with what you have left over.


Chop, slice & dice all your ingredients in advance.

Onions –

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at least 2

Garlic –

Celery – use the whole stick with the leaves.

Green Beans






Smoked Paprika, Oregano, Italian Herbs, Pepper & Bay Leaves ready for the pot.



2Tbs of Tomato Paste

1Tbs smoked Paprika

1Tbs dried Oregano

1Tbs Black Pepper

2 bay leaves

6 vegetable or chicken stock cubes

Fresh herbs – as many as you like, I grow parsley, thyme and rosemary in my garden so generally always add them.


2Tbs of Tomato Paste.



Wash, peel and cut your vegetable into bite sized pieces or smaller. In a large heavy bottomed pot heat some olive oil and brown your garlic and onions. Add all of your herbs and spices together with your tomato paste and fry for another 2 minutes then add two cups of dry white wine.

Brown your garlic & onions then add all of the aromatics and fry for a further 2 minutes.



















If you don’t cook with wine, use two cups of vegetable stock. When you add the wine or stock, use a wooden spoon to scrape all the caramelisation off the bottom of the pot. Once all of the alcohol has cooked off, add all of your chopped veggies and cover with water. Check for seasoning – I always add some extra salt and often use my flavoured salts either in the pot or on top when I serve the soup.

Stir the veggies well before adding the stock.


Bring the pot to the boil then reduce slightly and cook until all of your veggies are cooked. Check for seasoning. As I make a really big pot I always have to add some extra salt and pepper to get the flavour just right.

Bring to the boil and reduce and simmer for 40 minutes.






Serving Suggestions

Serve with a good dollop of basil pesto and some freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.

Serve with a good dollop of basil pesto, grated Parmesan Cheese and some toasted Ciabbata bread.

Cook a handful of pasta separately and add to your Minestrone just before serving

Liquidise some Minestrone and add a dash of fresh cream to transform it into a Cream of Minestrone soup – serve with some feta cheese crumbled on top.

Stracciatella, for 1 person. Strain off some minestrone broth. In a bowl beat one egg, 1Tbs water and 2Tbs of parmesan cheese together. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and pour in the beaten egg & cheese mixture in a thin steady stream from quite a height. As you pour in the egg whisk the broth so the egg forms ‘the stracciatella” which means little rags in Italian.

Two other Meat Free Monday Soup Recipes to try!

Roasted Red Pepper, Brinjal & Tomato Soup with Naked Little Dumplings!

Roasted Tomato, Brinjal & Red Pepper soup topped with Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi … little Italian dumplings.

Meat Free Monday: French Onion Soup and Taglietelle Alfredo.

French Onion Soup topped with grilled Crusty Bread & Gruyere cheese.

Today I am making a pot of Nonna’s Pea & Pancetta Soup with Rice, another winter warmer.

I just had to share this pic with you …. I found this little lady on my basil when I was gathering it to make pesto the other day. Isn’t she gorgeous!

As always

Buon Appetito



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