I’ve made Minestrone Soup over the years, and it has become one of my favorite winter soups because of the combined heartiness of all the vegetables, beans and pasta in this soup. This week, I came across a Minestrina Soup recipe from La Varenne, a cooking school in California run by Anne Willan. I had never heard of Minestrina Soup before and assumed at first glance that it was a Minestrone Soup recipe. The list of ingredients for the Minestrina Soup looked almost identical to a Minestrone Soup recipe, with the exception of pasta and beans, which were both missing.
According to The Food Lovers Companion, Minestra means soup in Italian, and typically describes a soup of medium thickness. Minestrina means “little soup” and has a thin broth, while Minestrone means “big soup” and is a thick vegetable soup that often contains pasta and sometimes peas or beans. Although this soup recipe uses only water, no broth, it is deceptively flavorful as a result of caramelizing the vegetables first. This is a far cry from the vegetable soup I recall from my childhood where my babysitter would simply boil frozen vegetables in water and call it soup.
With the weather turning cooler, I’ve been making more soups lately, and this week I decided to serve this Minestrina Soup with an Accent as a vegetable at dinner the other night. Soups are a different way of serving vegetables to my kids, a way of mixing things up during the week; plus in soups like this, I know my kids are eating a variety of vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, zucchini and more) and at least 2 servings (I know…sneaky right?).
The little Accent in this recipe is a piece of toast topped with some Basil Pesto, a little something special that brings this simple rustic soup to a whole new level. The interesting thing about serving vegetables in soup form is that my kids would normally reject a mixed dish of vegetables like the ones in this recipe, but in this Minestrina, they ate every bite. Hmm, I’m liking the idea of serving vegetable soup at dinner time more and more…a wider variety of vegetables and more servings? What’s not to like.
This week, Anne Willan is being recognized by a group of bloggers as one of the Top 50 Women Game Changers in Food. The English-born Anne Willan studied and taught cooking in London and Paris before moving to the U.S., where she became an associate editor of Gourmet magazine and food editor of the Washington Star. As a recognized authority on French cooking, she founded La Varenne in 1975, a culinary school in Burgundy, with the encouragement and support of Julia Child. La Varenne eventually moved to Southern California, but along the way, taught many of the who’s who of the culinary world the LaVarenne Way, including Amanda Hesser, Molly Stevens, and Stephen Raichlen.
Anne Willan is the author of 13 cookbooks, including The Country Cooking of France, which received two 2008 James Beard Foundation Awards for best international cookbook and best cookbook photography. She has also received numerous awards, including being honored in 1995 as Grande Dame of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, and receiving the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.
According to Molly Stevens, “Anne is one of the hardest working individuals I know, and her drive for perfection has long been an inspiration.” When asked by Virginia Willis what she was most proud of, Anne Willan answered, “Creating LaVarenne where so many people have been through and learned then going out and doing their own things, taking things further and creating their own careers.”
Minestrina Soup with an Accent
For the Minestrina
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large carrots peeled and sliced diagonally
- 2 medium onions sliced
- 2 celery stalks sliced
- 6 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 small cauliflower divided into florets
- 2 small potatoes cut into 3/8" dice
- 1 zucchini cut into half-moons
- 2 to matoes peeled, seeded and chopped (approximately 1 cup)
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
For the Pesto Croutes:
- 6-8 slices of crusty bread I used the gluten-free bread ends
- 1/3 cup Basil Pesto
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese optional
To Make Minestrina
- In a large soup pot, heat the oil. Add the carrots, onion and celery and saute until they just start to soften and turn light brown, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the water, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes.
- Add cauliflower and potatoes, and simmer 10 minutes more. Add zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and parsley and simmer 7-10 minutes more until zucchini are just tender.
To Make Pesto Croutes
- Toast bread. Spread pesto on top.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Top with Pesto Croutes and Parmesan cheese, if using.
Recipe NotesAdapted from Anne Willan, La Varenne.The original recipe calls for green beans; since I didn't have any, I substituted zucchini. Of course, as in most vegetable soup recipes, feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand, just adjust the cooking time accordingly. I decided to cook the potatoes along with the cauliflower instead of adding them later on as potatoes sometimes take longer to cook. For a dairy-free, vegan version, serve without the Parmesan cheese.
If you’re interested in joining our group as we cook our way through this list of 50 influential women in food, just ask Mary from One Perfect Bite.
Please stop by and take a look at what the rest of the group made this week in celebration of Anne Willan:
Annie from Most Lovely Things
Linda from There and Back Again
Val from More Than Burnt Toast
Joanne from Eats Well with Others
Taryn from Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan from The Spice Garden
Heather from girlichef
Miranda from Mangoes and Chutney
Mary from One Perfect Bite
Sue from The View from The Great Island
Barbara from Movable Feasts
Nancy from Picadillo
Kathleen from Bake Away With Me
Veronica from My Catholic Kitchen
Mireya of My Healthy Eating Habits
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook