Early Autumn Minestrone (Jamie Oliver)

7. oz cannellini or borlotti bean, fresh or dried and soaked overnight

1 bay leaf

1 tomato, squashed

1 small potato, peeled

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

olive oil

4 slices smoked pancetta, chopped

2 small red onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped

1/2 head of fennel, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves and stems separated

2-14 oz cans of good quality plum tomatoes

2 small zucchini, quartered and sliced

a glass of red wine

1/2 lb swiss chard or spinach, washed and roughly sliced (including stalks)

2 cups chicken, ham or vegetable stock

2 oz dried pasta

extra virgin olive oil

a block of parmesan cheese, to serve

Add your fresh or dried and soaked beans to a pan of water with the bay leaf, squashed tomato and potato. Cook until tender– they must be soft. Drain (reserving half a glass of the cooking water) and discard the bay leaf, tomato and potato. Now season with salt, pepper and a splash of oil.

While the beans are cooking, make your soffrito. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped pancetta, onions, carrots, fennel, garlic, and the finely sliced basil stems. Sweat very slowly on low heat, with the lid just ajar, for around 15-20 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add the tomatoes, zucchini and red wine and simmer for 15 minutes.

Now add the chard or spinach, stock and beans. Put the dried pasta into a plastic bag, squeeze all of the air out and tie the end up. Bash gently with a rolling pin to break the pasta into pieces. Snip the end off the bag and empty the contents into the soup. Stir and continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked.

If you think the soup is looking too thick, add a little more stock or some of the reserved cooking water to thin it down a bit. Then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the torn up basil leaves and with some extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top. Put a block of parmesan and a grater on the table for everyone to help themselves.

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