This is our go-to winter meal. Real comfort food. A big batch makes three large meals for the two of us. It is crammed with vegetables and, as long as you stick to the basic framework, it can be varied according to what you have. It is a Jamie Oliver recipe, based on the classic Italian recipe for minestrone, but is so much more. First, it is a stew not a soup. Second, the addition of vacuum-packed chestnuts adds a glorious silkiness. Third, I defy you to be hungry after eating it.
We make a couple of amendments. Jamie includes bacon, we don’t. We add a small tin of tomato concentrate and a dash of Worcester sauce. It is pretty foolproof.
800g butternut squash
15g fresh rosemary
15g fresh sage
100g vacuum-packed chestnuts
2 400g tins plum tomatoes, chopped or whole
2 400g tins borlotti beans
1.2 litres vegetable stock
500g seasonal greens [we used kale]
100g dried pasta [we used slim macaroni]
small tin tomato concentrate
Worcester sauce, a dash
Peel and roughly chop the onions and carrots. Peel the butternut, discard the seeds, and chop into pieces about the same size as the carrots. Finely chop the rosemary, sage leaves and chestnuts.
Take the largest saucepan you have, heat a drizzle of oil over a medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, butternut, herbs and chestnuts and cook slowly, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes or until all the vegetables have softened.
Add the tomatoes and tomato concentrate to the pan, followed by the beans, stock and the dash of Worcester sauce. Stir, cover with a lid, and bring slowly to the boil. Leave to simmer for about 30 minutes until the butternut is cooked through.
Meanwhile prepare the greens. Remove any tough stalks then chop. If your pasta is in large pieces, wrap it in a tea towel and bash it into smaller pieces using a rolling pin. Add the greens and pasta to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. If the sauce has thickened, you can add a splash of water at this stage.
Season to taste and divide between bowls. This keeps well in the fridge so make a batch, divide into smaller bowls, cover and store to eat later in the week. It’s good with crusty bread if you are absolutely starving hungry!
5 to remember
un gran lote – a big batch
infalible – foolproof
envasado al vacío – vacuum-packed
las castañas – the chestnuts
una sedosidad gloriosa – a glorious silkiness