This is my version of Minestrone soup but it is more like a vegetable stew than soup. When I serve it in a small quantity, it is perfect as one of the small dishes in the Home Izakaya.
You can use any vegetables but these are ones I usually use.
1. onion, 2. garlic, 3. carrot, 4. yellow squash, 5. zucchini, 6. cabbage, 7. canned kidney beans (Other beans such as cannellini beans, navy beans, and chick peas can be also used instead or in addition), 8. canned Italian plum tomatoes. You could also add celery, green beans, peas etc. The vegetables are all cut into small cubes except for garlic which are finely chopped.
I first saute finely sliced and cut salt pork (or pancetta if you have one or bacon). The amount of the vegetables and salt pork is arbitrary. One of the problems of this type of soup is, as you keep adding the ingredients, the soup keeps increasing in volume. It is difficult to control the final amount (at least for me, I even had to change the pot to a larger sized one during the cooking in the past). If the amount of fat rendered is not enough, add olive oil. I saute onion first, then add garlic, cabbage for 5 minutes or so and add other vegetables. I drain and rinse the canned beans under the running cold water before adding to the pot. I add half of the juice from the canned tomatoes depending on how acidic it is (you may want to add all the juices). Some acidity is good to counter balance with sweetness from the vegetables. I use my usual Swanson no-fat, low-sodium chicken broth to cover the vegetables. I add several bay leaves (do not forget to remove all of them at the end, I make a mental note of how many bay leaves I put in), dried majorum (or oregano), and basil (Do not overdo these herbs). I let it simmer for at least 30 minutes. I adjust seasoning by adding salt (if needed) and black pepper.
I like to cook the pasta separately rather than in the soup. I add a small amount of olive oil to coat the cooked pasta (to prevent them from sticking to each other) and put it in a sealed container after it is cool. I add it just before serving since pasta keeps absorbing water and will get very soft and soggy after some time in the soup. I suppose one can use any pasta but I happened to have “Rotini“. I cook the pasta on al dente side and warm it up with a portion of the soup you are serving.
To serve: Here I used a small Japanese bowl to conform to the Izakaya theme and topped it with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped chives (or Italian parsley) and freshly cracked black pepper. Since it is rather like a stew, it will go with any drink but a nice Italian red may be the best match. Depending on the amount of vegetables, soup and pasta you serve, this could be a starter or an ending dish. Perfect for cold snowy days.