Peter Flynn

Minestrone (Italian soup)

This was originally inspired by a recipe in a well-known weight-loss organisation’s booklet, but I have adapted it to replace the pasta with julienne of parsnip (which is roughly the same size, shape, and colour of the carbohydrate it replaces), and to replace the cabbage with pak choi, because when you only make a small amount you probably don’t want to buy a huge cabbage, and it gets rid of the smell of brassica as well. There’s quite a lot of prep in this but it’s well worth it.

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Serves 6. Prep time: 30 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes.


  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 small parsnip
  • 1 cluster pak choi
  • 50 g green beans
  • 50 g peas
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 × 400 g can tomatoes
  • 1 × 400 g can flageolet beans (or cannellini beans)


  1. Quarter the onion and slice very thinly. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or pot, and add the onions, and cook gently for 15 minutes until soft and starting to caramelise.

  2. Meanwhile, slice the garlic finely, and add to the onion after they’ve had 10 minutes cooking.

  3. Slice the celery and add to the pot. Stir well.

  4. Cut the carrot and parsnip very finely so they are the thickness of cooked spaghetti (a julienne slicer 🔗 is good to do this). Chop to about 3cm long and add them to the pot. Keep stirring.

  5. Chop the stems of the pak choi and shred the leafy heads. Add them and stir well.

  6. Cut the beans to the same length as the carrot and parsnip. If you’re using string beans, cut them lengthwise also, same as for the carrots (now a bean slicer is handy). French beans can go in whole if they’re fine. Add them to the pot with the peas.

  7. Add the vegetable stock cube and some boiling water to help it dissolve, then add the tomatoes.

  8. Finally, strain the flageolet beans, discard the liquid, and add the beans to the pot.

  9. Add just enough boiling water to submerge everything, stir well, put on the lid, and turn it down to cook gently.


  • Serve in big bowls with lots of Italian bread.

Any timings underlined in red are in addition to the preparation time (eg waiting time)

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