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Minestrone with Pesto Bread

Minestrone.jpg

Image: Martin Davidson. For illustration purposes only.

Minestrone with Pesto Bread

from Sharnee Beard

This is my own version of the Italian minestrone, a combination of vegetables, beans and pasta simmered in a stock.  It is not completely traditional, however, with the addition of red kidney beans, bacon, tomatoes and beef stock, which results in a very robust, wintry soup.  This would have to be my favourite soup and like any soup, I always make enough to last a few days.  I even think it gets better as it ages. 

We always sprinkle our minestrone with a sharp Parmesan and cracked black pepper on serving.  To make it extra special, sometimes I make this pesto bread to accompany the soup.  You could always spread a quality fresh basil pesto on sliced ciabata and grill it till golden, or you could make your own from scratch as I have described here.  Whichever you choose, the fresh peppery basil and crunch of the bread completes the meal beautifully. 

Minestrone

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 brown onions, finely chopped
6 rashers bacon, sliced into batons
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large zucchini, diced into 1cm cubes
2 carrots, diced into 1cm cubes
1 head of broccoli, broken into florets and sliced
1/3 cabbage, sliced finely
2 cans tomatoes
2 tsp dried basil
6-8 cups beef stock
¾ cup peas
1 small can red kidney beans, drained
1 cup farfalle pasta
Salt and pepper

Method
  • Heat a very large saucepan over high heat. 
  • Add the oil and onions, and cook till softened. 
  • Add the bacon and continue to sauté over high heat till well browned.
  • Add the garlic and stir around for a minute or so until fragrant.
  • Add the zucchini, carrots, broccoli and cabbage.  Stir through till everything has started to cook down. 
  • Add the tomatoes, basil and enough stock to come a few centimetres above the vegetable mix, to allow room for the rest of the ingredients to be added.  Allow to come to the boil, then add the peas, beans and pasta. 
  • Allow it to come to the boil and turn down to a simmer.  Continue to simmer until the pasta is tender.
  • Add more stock if you need to and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. 
  • Serve hot, sprinkled with grated Parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper.  

Pesto Bread

Pesto

Ingredients

6 tbsp pine nuts
1 clove garlic
2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
60g Parmesan, freshly grated
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper, freshly cracked

Method
  • Using a mortar and pestle, crush the pinenuts and garlic till smooth. 
  • Add the basil and continue to work it with the pestle until it is of fairly fine and even consistency.
  • Stir through the Parmesan and slowly add the olive oil, stirring to loosen up the pesto. 
  • Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Bread

Ingredients

500g strong white flour

1 sachet instant dried yeast

1 tsp salt

330ml water, warm

6 tblsp extra virgin olive oil 

Method
  • Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. 
  • Add the water and oil, mixing to make a soft, yet firm dough.  If it is too wet add more flour.  I think it is easier to add more flour to a wet dough rather than vice versa.  Otherwise, more water can be added to a dry dough, but it will take more effort to work in. 
  • Empty the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth, elastic and supple, a bit like the lobe of your ear. This whole process can always be can be undertaken in a kitchen aid, fitted with a dough hook.  
  • Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow it to double in a warm place, for about an hour. 
  • Once it has risen, punch it down and divide into two balls.  Roll out each ball into a rectangle shape, to a height of about 2 cm all over.  Transfer each to baking sheets and allow to rise once more for about half an hour to an hour until almost doubled again. 
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.   Carefully, using your fingertips, push little dimples in all over the bread. 
  • Generously and gentle spread the pesto and oil mix over the two bread bases. 
  • Place in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes until the bread is cooked through and golden in parts.  Serve immediately. 

Recipe source:  Sharnee Beard

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