Chunky Minestrone with Giant Croutons

I’ve designed this soup with little ones in mind, so the vegetables are large enough to hold once cool and the beans are blended into the base for slurping from the cup (with help if needed). Croutons can be quite crunchy for beginners, so keep some to one side without toasting, or soften with a little of the soup base.

Makes 6–8 adult portions or 12–16 baby portions

For the minestrone:

1 brown onion, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, thickly sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup (200g / 7oz) tinned borlotti beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup (40g / 1.5oz) sun-dried tomatoes or drained semi-dried tomatoes

6 cups (1.5L / 52 fl oz) chicken stock

2 carrots, roughly chopped

400g / 14oz tomatoes, quartered

3 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

2 zucchini, sliced into 2.5cm / 1″ chunks

1 cup (90g / 3.25oz) wholemeal pasta, such as fusilli

For the croutons:

250g / 9oz crusty wholegrain sourdough bread

1/3 cup (35g / 1.25oz) finely grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tbsp olive oil

To make the soup:

1. In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and celery, and fry gently for 10 minutes to soften.

2. Meanwhile, purée the beans, sun-dried tomatoes and 1/3 cup (80ml / 2.5 fl oz) of the stock until smooth. Add to the pan with the remaining stock, as well as the carrots, tomatoes and oregano.

3. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add the zucchini and pasta, and simmer for a further 10 minutes or until cooked al dente. Serve the soup hot, topped with the crunchy croutons.

To make the croutons:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6.

2. Cut the bread into large chunks and put in a bowl. Add the parmesan cheese, oregano and olive oil, and stir well to coat. Spoon and press any of the remaining cheesy topping that may have settled to the bottom of the bowl onto the bread as you transfer it to a baking tray. Spread out and toast in the oven for 15 minutes.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Dietary info: Dairy-free option (omit parmesan cheese), gluten-free option (use gluten-free bread and pasta), nut-free, vegetarian option (use vegetable stock)

This recipe is from issue 19 of Lunch Lady magazine, you can buy the issue in our shop HERE.

For more great content follow us on Instagram HERE and Facebook HERE

///