Hearty soups. Minestrone

MINESTRONE Pulse (dried peas, beans and lentils) must be soaked overnight and partially cooked before adding to the soup because they take so long to tenderize. Never cook pulses with salt because it hardens their skins; add salt only to the final dish just before serving.

When serving the soup pass round a small bowl of grated Parmesan cheese so that each person can sprinkle more cheese on top at his soup. Offer diners croutons, too, it you wish.

- 50 g [2 oz] dried haricot beans
- 2 rashers bacon
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 large carrot
- 1 celery stalk
- 1.15 L [2 pt] beef or chicken stock
- 50 g [2 oz] pasta shapes
- 30 ml [2 tablespoons]
- Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper

1. Put the beans in a large bowl. Cover them with plenty of cold water and leave to soak overnight.

2 Drain the beans. Put them into a pan with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.

3 Chop the bacon into match stick-sized pieces and put into a large flameproof casserole or saucepan. Place over low heat and cook until the fat starts to run.

4 Prepare the vegetables. Chop the garlic finely and cut the onion into thin slices.

5 Add the garlic and onion to the pan, cover and allow them to soften without colouring (this is called sweating). Shake the pan occasionally or stir to prevent sticking. I!6 Add the stock to the pan, increase heat and bring to the boil.

7 Quarter the tomatoes and dice the other vegetables.

8 Add the carrots and drained, partly cooked beans. Reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.

9 Add the celery and tomatoes and continue simmering for a further 10 minutes.

10 Then bring the soup back to the boil and add the pasta shapes. Lower the heat and simmer until they are soft. The timing will depend on the size of the pasta be guided by the packet instructions. For small shapes 8 minutes should be enough, for larger ones 12 minutes.

11 Stir in 30 ml [2 tablespoons] Parmesan cheese, Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve.
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