© David Loftus
There's a whole world of minestrones out there – most of which follow very strict, authentic recipes. Personally, I feel that a minestrone should always reflect the seasons: more cabbagy, frumpy ones in the winter and lighter, more colourful ones in the spring and summer. A minestrone can also be a whole meal if you want it to be, with pasta, stale bread or rice to bulk it out. To complement the spring vegetables, I've put a bit of a Genoese twist on it, with a spoon of fresh pesto added at the last minute, so the flavours explode in your mouth. Give it a bash.
First, if you're going to make pesto do it now. Bring a pot of stock to the boil. Then you need to get all the vegetables prepared and put to one side. The fennel has to be halved, sliced and finely chopped, the asparagus needs to have the woody ends removed, the stalks finely sliced and the tips left whole, the cauliflowers need to be divided into small florets, the courgettes need to be quartered lengthways and finely chopped and finally the tomatoes need to be blanched. Cut them in half, remove the pips and finely slice. Now you're ready to rock and roll.
In a casserole-type pan (quite wide but not very deep) put 5 tablespoons of olive oil and heat the pan on a medium heat. Add the garlic, spring onions and fennel and gently fry without colouring at all for about 15 minutes. Then add the rest of your prepared vegetables, the pasta and your boiling stock. Bring to the boil, simmer for about 10 minutes, season, and serve in big bowls with a dollop of fresh pesto in the middle, a sprinkling of chopped basil and chives, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Try this: As you can see, the idea of this soup is to celebrate all the vegetables that are available at the time, so feel free to modify the soup and make it your own.
And this: A good way to break up your spaghetti is to wrap it in a tea towel and then run it over the edge of your work surface.
Did you know? The fact that everything is finely chopped means that the cooking time is very quick and the soup remains light and fresh.
• from Jamie's Kitchen
• 6 heaped tablespoons fresh pesto
• 1.5 litres good chicken, ham or vegetable stock
• 1 bulb of fennel
• 100g fine asparagus
• 2 Romanesco cauliflowers or 1 large cauliflower
• 6 baby courgettes
• 6 plum tomatoes
• extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
• 1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
100g green beans, finely sliced
• 100g yellow beans, finely sliced
• 100g peas, podded
• 100g broad beans, podded
• 100g spaghetti, broken-up
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 small handful of fresh green or purple basil
• 1 small handful of fresh chives