Peruvian Minestrone a.k.a Menestrón Soup Recipe


Peruvian Minestrone

4-6

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetables broth or water
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 1 large leek, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, cubed
  • 1 cup potatoes, cubed
  • 1/4 cabbage, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup gluten free penne, or any other short pasta
  • 1 can cannellini beans

For the sauce:

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 cup basil

Directions

  1. Mix all the soup ingredients (except the beans and pasta) in a large pan over high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to medium low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. While this is cooking, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic, stirring, for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach and basil and stir until wilted. Transfer to the blender with one cup of the soup's liquid, season with salt and pepper, and process until you have a smooth sauce. Set aside.
  5. After cooking the soup for 20 minutes, add the pasta and follow the package instructions.
  6. When the pasta is done add the beans and salsa verde to the pan, stir well, and keep cooking for 5 extra minutes.
  7. I served this with vegan Parmesan on top, but this is optional.

I may not be a big fan of the winter, but I certainly am a fan of winter food. Stews, soups, roasted veggies, spicy and warming porridges…these are some of my favorite things to eat. I know a lot of people who follow an almost 100% raw foods diet come rain or shine. Most of them claim that contrary to what one would intuitively believe, this form of eating helps them feel warmer during the cold months of the year because they spend less energy on digestion and use it to warm up their bodies from the inside out instead. If you think about it, it does make sense.

Right? But I still prefer to stick to my Ayurvedic point of view, which is very different.

According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian tradition of natural healing, winter means one thing: increase the amounts of warming cooked foods. Especially if you have a vata constitution like mine, which is naturally cold and dry. Anything moist and hot will do wonders for people like me, and what could be more hot and moist than soup?

I’m a big believer in this way of eating, because ever since I acquired this knowledge and started applying it, I started feeling more and more comfortable during the winter and getting sick much less often. So these days I have a bowl of steaming soup for dinner almost every evening, and I will even have some for breakfast…because who says you can’t have soup for breakfast? Only if I make a very sturdy soup like this one will I eat it for lunch, because I know it will keep me energized and satisfied throughout the whole afternoon without a problem.

Let me tell you a bit about this soup, which is the Peruvian version of the Italian Minestrone. Minestrone, for those of you who don’t know, is a thick vegetable soup from Italy, which varies a lot according to the region and the season. In fact, there’s not one fixed minestrone recipe, as people do it with whatever vegetables they have around, as is the case with so many Italian dishes. This filling soup belongs to the rustic style of Italian cooking called cucina povera (“poor kitchen“).

When Italians immigrated to Peru close to a hundred years ago, they brought along most of their dishes, which they then adapted to their new environment using local ingredients. Minestrone was one of these dishes. The Peruvian version uses our local pesto called salsa verde, and many native root vegetables.

It also leaves tomatoes out of the recipe (a strange fact, since tomatoes are originally from Peru), and has cubed queso fresco sprinkled on top instead of Italian Parmesan. This version, however, has neither, because it’s vegan! It’s also not really the way it would be prepared in Peru, as I live in New York and can’t find the same ingredients. So there are no Peruvian giant corn, no yucca, and no fresh fava beans here.

Instead I used what’s in season in my area: leeks, potatoes, cabbage, and carrots. If you do want to take a look (or try) a more typical Peruvian Menestrón, go to Peru Delights for the recipe.

In the meantime, enjoy this version, which is halfway a Menestrón and halfway a Minestrone. Should I call it something new?

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