Rainbow Minestrone

I still vividly remember my first bowl of minestrone soup.

Chelsea says…

I still vividly remember my first bowl of minestrone soup. It was 1993 and I was eight, a guest of a school friend at her birthday dinner. We sat outside at Elio’s, a much-loved osteria on Brisbane’s southside. A chunky bowl of minestrone was placed in front of me and with my first mouthful – tomato, herbs, texture, warmth and so much flavour! – a core food memory was created.

It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties, a single mum of three faced with bare cupboards and hungry bellies, that I attempted to cook it myself. This classic Italian peasant dish was soon on weekly rotation. With just a few dollars I could throw everything together and conjure up a reasonably tasty, nutritious bowl of goodness for my family.

Ten years later and my minestrone recipe has evolved, along with my palate and my kitchen skills. It’s no longer a dish made out of necessity, but an often-requested meal that is cooked with love, enjoying equal status with a slow-cooked lamb shoulder or a Thai curry.

For my 37th birthday lunch, I prepared a huge pot of rainbow minestrone with crusty garlic bread for my closest friends. While I waited for my guests to arrive, I started second‑guessing myself. Was the soup enough? Was it too basic? Should I quickly whip up something else…maybe something meaty?

All of my doubts were quickly set aside. Bowls emptied rapidly, all the right food noises were made and second helpings were dished out. I was reminded of my first “minestrone experience” almost three decades earlier. The soup was a warm, comforting hug that enveloped us all on that winter’s day. The perfect choice.



Rainbow Minestrone


Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 brown onions, diced
3 large carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
800g tin diced or crushed tomatoes
8 cups (2 litres) vegetable or beef stock
1½ cups (150g) sliced silverbeet stems
1 cup (125g) macaroni
2 cups (60g) silverbeet leaves
400g tin cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus extra to serve
juice of ½ lemon
crumbled feta or finely grated parmesan

Garlic bread

1 baguette
125g unsalted butter, softened
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ teaspoon salt 


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat then add onion and cook gently for 4–5 minutes, until soft. Add carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute.

Add salt, oregano, chilli flakes and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, stock and 2 cups (500ml) water. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on it, and as soon as it comes to the boil, reduce to medium-low again so it simmers. If you have the time, leave it simmering, partially covered with a lid, for 5–10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, make the garlic bread. Slice the baguette diagonally into 2–3cm slices and combine the butter, garlic, parsley and salt in a bowl. Smear the garlic butter over the cut side of the baguette, arrange on a baking tray and set aside.

About 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve, remove the lid on the soup and add the silverbeet stems and macaroni. Return to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, until macaroni is almost cooked. Preheat the grill in your oven. Add silverbeet leaves, cannellini beans and parsley to the soup, and cook for a further 5 minutes, until heated through and macaroni is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pop the garlic bread under the grill for a couple of minutes or until lightly browned. Ladle the soup into bowls. Squeeze some lemon juice into each bowl and top with the extra parsley, and either feta or parmesan. Serve with garlic bread.

Published in Ed#712