Minestra - Thick Vegetable Soup

The preparation of minestra is a serious business in the Maltese islands and much discussion takes place between and within families about which vegetables should be used and whether it should or should not be mashed Some people think that our minestra is much the same as the Italian minestrone of which there are number of variations. However, the Maltese minestra is a very different dish – it is always very thick with the vegetables in large pieces or mashed and we don’t, as a rule, use haricot beans or green beans either – preferring split fava beans.

Ingredients:

100g favetta (fava beans);
2 - 3 large onions;
3 large potatoes;
2 bunches of Maltese celery – the thin stems can be chopped or leave the bunches whole;
3 or more carrots;
1 to 2 turnips;
half a small cauliflower or cabbage or a little of both;
400 g pumpkin (both the yellow and the firm white variety if possible);
1 tbs olive oil;
1 tbs tomato puree (optional)
100 g thick pasta, such as zibbec (beads – Italian Canneroncini)

Method:

Wash the beans thoroughly and leave to soak for a few hours. Chop all the vegetables roughly and not too small. Place in a very large saucepan (because pulses and pasta will be added later). Pour on boiling water to reach about half way up. Add the tomato puree and salt and pepper.

Cover, bring to a boil then simmer very gently for about two hours, stirring occasionally. You may prefer to add the cauliflower or cabbage later on since they don’t require such lengthy cooking. Cook the favetta separately and add towards the last 30 minutes.

When all the vegetables are cooked, add the pasta and simmer for a further 12 minutes. Now add a good tablespoon of olive oil and stir it in. Add freshly grated Parmesan when serving.