While thousands of ethnic dishes have been successfully adapted to our Western palates, we still seek authenticity and value it over convenience of using readily available local ingredients, taking shortcuts during preparation and enjoying familiar tastes. Sometimes, when trying authentic dishes, I fall in love with them so much that I make my best to recreate them at home and save the recipes in my recipe box for future use. This minestrone soup is one such example.
Recently, on a night out, I tried this fabulously tasting soup at a local Italian restaurant. It's rich and complex taste, complemented by a hint of smoky bacon, just blew my taste buds away. I complimented the chef on the soup and asked to tell me more about it. He smiled and said: "It's minestrone Triestino. The best! My family used this recipe for generations".
As soon as I got home I began my search in an effort to recreate this delicious soup at home. The minestrone Triestino, or minestrone from Trieste, also known as 'jota', is a traditional dish in Italy's north-eastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in particular in the cities of Trieste and Gorizia. Originally, this was a peasant dish and was prepared with simple ingredients. This minestrone is tasty and comforting, and peasants liked to enjoy it on cold winter evenings. However, the delightful soup eventually became popular across the entire region and beyond, no matter what season.
There are numerous variations of minestrone from Trieste, from ingredients to methods of preparation. Some versions use more beans. Some add corn or barley to the traditional recipe, while others add sauerkraut or yellow polenta flour. Vegetables in this soup also vary from season to season based on availability.
My search for an authentic Italian minestrone from Trieste yielded several promising recipes which I eagerly attempted and thoroughly enjoyed. But, only one stood out and reminded me of the minestrone that I tried at the local restaurant. It had the same richness, similar ingredients, the same smoky flavor... I loved it. I hope you enjoy it too.
Recipe adapted from Donna Moderna. Recipe translation, ingredient conversions and notes are courtesy of cravingtasty.com.
Italian Minestrone Soup Recipe (Trieste Style)
- 2 oz double smoked bacon (diced)
- 1 yellow onion (chopped)
- 1/2 lb (about 5 1/2 cups) Swiss chard (leaves and stems, roughly chopped)
- 1/2 lb (two small or one large) zucchini (cut into thick slices)
- 5 oz (2 packed cups) spinach (roughly chopped)
- 3 oz (about 1 cup) chopped green beans (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
- 2 carrots (cut into thick slices)
- 1 celery rib (cut into thick slices)
- 2 tomatoes (peeled and sliced)
- 2 large potatoes (peeled and cut into quarters)
- 6 1/2 cups beef or vegetable broth
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 2 tomatoes (peeled and minced)
- 5 oz (1 1/2 cups) durum wheat semolina pasta
- 3 Tbsp olive oil (for frying)
- 4 Tbsp Grana Padano cheese (or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Sea salt (to taste)
- Black pepper (to taste)
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and bacon, and cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes.
- Add the Swiss chard, zucchini, spinach, celery, green beans, potatoes, carrots and the 2 sliced tomatoes. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.
- Add the broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, covered, for an hour and 15 minutes.
- Remove the potatoes from the pot, mash, mix with the minced tomatoes and return back to the pot.
- Add the pasta and cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. The time will depend on the kind of pasta you are using.
- Add the chopped parsley, butter and 4 tablespoons of Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Mix well and serve.