A few years ago I visited Florence in early December, and on a cold and rainy evening I was wandering around the city centre looking for somewhere to eat. I found a little trattoria by Santa Croce that was particularly welcoming against the winter gloom with a menu which wasn’t overly touristic.
I knew I’d made a good choice as soon as I stepped inside, welcomed into the warmth and light by the genuinely friendly staff. Their menu was full of hearty Tuscan dishes to ward off the cold, and my first choice was a bowl of minestrone, packed full of the flavours of the local countryside. The next evening I went for a bowl of their Tuscan bean soup and the memories of these warm and welcoming dishes were what inspired this variation on the classic dish.
It’s best made with local organic veg, and eating it feels like goodness in a bowl.
Winter Minestrone Soup
4 servings – enough for 2 dinners or 4 lunches.
1 clove garlic
1 large leek
2 – 3 carrots
2 sticks celery
1/2 large or 1 small cabbage
1 litre good quality veggie stock
1 tin cannellini beans, rinsed
4 medallions of bacon, chopped into small bits
Parmesan or strong cheddar cheese to top
One of the beauties of this recipe is that is endlessly customisable. You could also used cavolo nero or any other green leafy veg instead of the cabbage – I tend to use whatever I got in my veg box for this soup. I also use cannellini beans instead of pasta as I prefer their texture and flavour in soup. For veggies, just leave out the bacon.
4. Bring down to simmer and add the cabbage or other green leafy veg
5. Leave to cook for 20 minutes or so, so that the root veg is cooked but still firm
6. Serve topped with a generous portion of Parmesan, cheddar or other hard cheese.