A nourishing Italian vegetable and pasta soup, Minestrone (min-es-troh-nee) is easily made. Minestrone makes a hearty meal on its own, served with crisp rolls and butter. The vegetables and dried beans used in this recipe can be varied according to taste.

H pints water

4 oz. dried kidney beans

2 oz. chick-peas

6 oz. salt pork, cut into cubes

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium- sized onions, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and diced

4 carrots, scraped and cut into

½ inch lengths

4 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into

2-inch lengths -2 small cabbage, coarse outer leaves removed, washed and finely shredded 6 medium-sized tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped 4 pints chicken stock bouquet garni, consisting of parsley sprigs,

1 thyme spray and

1 bay leaf tied together

2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

8 oz. fresh peas, weighed after shelling

4 oz. macaroni

2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water to the boil over high heat. Add the beans and chick-peas and boil them for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the beans to soak for 1 ½ hours. Replace the pan over high heat and bring the water to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans and chick-peas for 1 ½ hours, or until they are almost tender. Remove the pan from the heat and drain the beans and peas in a colander. Set aside.

Minestrone, from Italy, is a colourful, nourishing and fresh-tasting soup.

In a large heavy saucepan, fry the salt pork over moderate heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until it is golden brown all over and has rendered most of its fat. With a slotted spoon, transfer the salt pork to a plate and set aside.

Pour the olive oil into the pork fat and add the onions and garlic to the pan. Fry them, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent but not brown. Add the potatoes, carrots and celery to the pan and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the cabbage and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock and add the bouquet garni, chick-peas, beans, salt pork, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to the boil. Re-duce the heat to low, cover the saucepan and simmer the minestrone for 35 minutes.

Uncover the saucepan and remove and discard the bouquet garni. Add the fresh peas and macaroni and continue to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the macaroni is ‘al dente’, or just tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and spoon the soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.