A few years ago whilst travelling from Tuscany to Rome, I stopped for lunch at a village in the Maremma, not far from the Tyrrhenian coastline. I opted for an ‘osteria con cucina’ (a tavern with a kitchen).
It was a classic old osteria: small and local, with four wooden tables plus one of those long communal tables typical of the Tuscan trattoria, where a single visitor can sit and enjoy the company of other patrons.
I chose the starter of cold meats (which turned out to be exceptional) with the minestrone to follow. The minestrone arrived; beautiful, rich, plentiful, and very tasty, with a slight spiciness and wonderful aroma. It was served in a large bowl on a large plate, with the crostini arranged around the outside.
The crostini were made from homemade bread that had been cooked in a wood-burning oven and drizzled with Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil, after being char-grilled. They were accompanied by a bottle of olive oil to use as a dressing, a small bowl of dried chili peppers and the Parmigiano Reggiano. It was truly wonderful.
It was the best minestrone I have ever tried in my life. As soon as I had finished, I immediately tried to get a hold of the recipe, which was kindly explained to me by the owner. From that day forward, I changed the way in which I made minestrone and several years later, I still adhere rigidly to this recipe.
Vegetable minestrone recipes have mounted up over the centuries, varying between regions, cities and villages. A few involve the addition of pasta and others of rice. They can furthermore be described as ‘white minestrone’ or ‘red minestrone’ (where tomato is added).
Unfortunately, there are other types of minestrone too –those offered by Italian restaurants abroad. These are usually advertised as ‘Milanese Minestrone’ and generally turn out to be ‘minestrine’ (thin soups) which are very watery and devoid of any taste.
The fantastic minestrone that I tasted was not soley due to the recipe. In fact, one could say that the method of preparation was even more important in achieving such a wonderful result.
Drawn from Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti Bolognaise & Caesar Salad by Maurizio Pelli.
For info: The Culinary Clinic by Maurizio Pelli.