Minestrone Toscano

Here is one of my favourite soups for this time of year. It’s very filling, delicious and authentically Tuscan, from Italian Regional Cooking, by Ada Boni

2 c dried white beans, soaked overnight
1/2 c olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, diced - or in my case I use a small handful of dried lovage from the garden, because I don’t often buy celery.
1 carrot, diced
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 c finely chopped bacon - optional
5 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded
2 - 3 leeks, chopped
3 small zucchini, diced
Finely chopped basil, to taste (I preserve mine frozen in ice-cube trays with a little water, then put them into a bag in the freezer)
2 - 3 sprigs finely chopped parsley
1 clove
salt and pepper to taste
rice, noodles, or pieces of toasted bread to finish

Cook the beans in their soaking water for about 2 hours, or until tender. Drain, reserving the liquid, and put about half of them through a fine sieve, food process, or blender. (If you use an immersion blender, remove about half of the beans first so that you have nice whole beans to put back in.) Put aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot and gently saute the garlic, onion, celery/lovage, carrot, rosemary and bacon until they begin to brown. Dilute the tomato paste with a little warm water, stir it into the pan, then add the cabbage, leeks, zucchini, basil, parsley and clove, as well as the pureed and whole beans, and their cooking water. Add a little extra hot water if necessary. Check seasoning and cook slowly for 30 minutes.

If using rice or noodles, add them to the broth at this point and cook until tender. Otherwise, serve the thick soup poured over slices of toast, adding a little extra olive oil to serve.


Look so yummy that I think I’ll put a pot on right now! Thanks so much.

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The soup sounds tasty, but what really stuck me was that I had never heard of lovage before. Now that I have looked it up, I think I’ll try growing it next year. Do you know if lovage is invasive?

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No, it’s not invasive. It clumps and becomes quite striking. You can let it flower and then harvest the seeds to use as spices too… Kind of like celery seeds. I really love it for the foliage though, to use in soups and sauces instead of celery.

It sounds better and better. How much space should I allow for a lovage plant? Do you cut it down each year?

My lovage has been there for about 20 or so years and it takes up a space of about 2’x2’. It’s surrounded by paths though, so not sure if it would have gotten bigger. It’s fairly neglected, except for when I want some of it to cook with. I used to cut down the flower stalks before they flowered, but lately I’ve been leaving them to flower and seed. Even if I don’t want the seeds myself, the little birds do. Where we have it in a corner of the vegetable garden it’s unlikely to be able to self-seed and germinate so I’m not sure if this would be invasive elsewhere.

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I also have a neglected yet happy lovage plant. It’s against a fence behind our fruit trees. It’s not invasive in this situation and has likely been growing there for at least 7 years. I absolutely love perennial easy care plants!