Minestrone (Italian: minestra [soup] + -one [augmentative suffix] hence "the big soup," the one with many ingredients) is the name for a variety of thick Italian soups made with vegetables, often with the addition of pasta or rice. Common ingredients include beans, onions, celery, carrots, stock, and tomatoes.
There is no set recipe for minestrone, since it is usually made out of whatever vegetables are in season. It can be vegetarian, contain meat, or contain a meat-based broth (such as chicken stock). Angelo Pellegrini, however, argues that the base of minestrone is bean broth, and that Roman beans "are the beans to use for genuine minestrone."
Minestrone is one of the cornerstones of Italian cuisine, and is just about as common as pasta on Italian tables.
Some of the earliest origins of minestrone soup pre-date the expansion of the Latin tribes of Rome into what became the Roman Republic and later Roman Empire, when the local diet was "vegetarian by necessity" and consisted mostly of vegetables, such as onions, lentils, cabbage, garlic, fava beans, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus and turnips.
During this time, the main dish of a meal would have been "pulte" or puls in English, a simple but filling porridge of spelt flour cooked in salt water, to which whatever vegetables were available would have been added.
It wasn't until the 2nd century B.C., when Rome had conquered Italy and monopolized the commercial and road networks, that a huge diversity of products flooded the capital and began to change their diet, and by association, the diet of Italy most notably with the more frequent inclusion of meats, including as a stock for soups.
Spelt flour was also removed from soups, as bread had been introduced into the Roman diet by the Greeks, and Rome had opened their first commercial "fornaio", or bakery, in 171 B.C and puls became a meal largely for the poor.
Full article ▸