2 1/2 cups cooked Borlotti or Great Northern beans
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, celery stalks, carrots, finely chopped
2 potatoes, 2 cups butternut squash, in 2cm cubes
2 cups cauliflower, cut into small pieces
3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced,
1 zucchini, chopped into 2cm cubes
1/2 cup barley, washed well
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, 1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp oregano
2 tsp salt, pepper to taste
1-2 chicken stock cubes and boiling water as needed
Polish sausage, cut into 5cm pieces, plus a ham hock cut in half
250 grams pasta, spiral, penne or shell
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
In a large pot, heat the oil on medium heat, fry onions and celery until soft; add other vegetables. Fry for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add ham hock, garlic, bay leaf, Parmesan cheese crust and water (liquid from the beans can be used), enough to cover the vegetables. Gently simmer for about 30 minutes.
Add beans, barley, herbs, stock cubes and salt, simmer for about 1 hour. Use a blender or potato masher to mash half the vegetables and beans — this adds a thick velvety texture to the Minestrone. Add the Polish sausage and continue cooking for an additional 30 minutes.
Cook the pasta separately and add to the Minestrone. Remove the ham hock, take off the skin and fat and discard. Cut the tender meat into pieces and add to the Minestrone. Remove from heat and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.
NOTE: If you don’t have a ham hock, add two or three slices of rindless bacon, cut into pieces and fry with the onions — this also adds a nice flavour.