This the first of my ‘under 300 calorie’ recipes and is a great example of how you can take a classic recipe, like minestrone soup, and make small adjustments to make it healthier without losing any of the flavour. It may sound boring and healthy on the face of it, but honestly, it is satisfying, warming and delicious.
The main difference with this recipe is that I haven’t used any pasta, rice or potatoes. instead, I added body to the soup by using red lentils and chunky butterbeans. I also used loads of smoked paprika, which although not traditional, is great spice for adding loads of flavour to dishes such as stews and soups.
The good thing about minestrone soup is you can add different vegetables depending on what you have in the fridge. You need the basics: leek/onion, carrot, and celery, but on top of that you can do what you like. I used cabbage and courgette, and I had some peppers in the fridge that needed using up, so I roasted them with a bit of spray on oil and added them on top of the minestrone soup right at the end. I also had some spinach in the fridge so threw that in.
You can also use chickpeas or cannelini beans instead of the butter beans, just whatever you happen to have in the store cupboard. If you want to add potatoes and pasta then of course you can, and I have indicated in the recipe where you can use these.
Another great tip for extra flavour is to put the parmesan rind in the soup while it is simmering. This makes it really tasty without having to use much parmesan at all.
This recipe serves 2 for a main meal, with some left over for lunch the next day. For the picture it was served with homemade flatbread, but of course with bread the calorie count goes up. If you don't care, then go for it!
- Prep Time : 15 minutes
- Cook Time : 50 minutes
- Bacon - 2 rashers, fat cut off
- Garlic - 1 clove, crushed
- 1 Leek - chopped
- 2 carrots - sliced
- courgette - halved and sliced
- 1/4 savoy cabbage - sliced thinly
- 2 sticks celery - chopped
- 1 red onion - chopped
- 1 red pepper - cut into 1 inch chunks
- red lentils - handful
- 1/2 tin butterbeans
- tin chopped tomatoes
- Vegetable stock - 1.5 pints
- sprig rosemary - leaves chopped up
- dried oregano - teaspoon
- smoked paprika - 2 teaspoons
- bay leaf - whole
- salt and pepper
- spray on oil
- handful basil leaves - (optional)
- parmesan - 1 tablespoon, finely grated (optional)
- parmesan rind - (optional)
- spinach - handful (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees (for roasting peppers if using)
2. Put a large saucepan on a medium heat and add some spray on oil. Fry the bacon for a few minutes until it starts to brown. Throw in the leeks, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, courgette, rosemary and dried oregano. Turn down the heat and cook for around 15 minutes.
3. While the veg is cooking, put the peppers in a roasting dish and spray with some oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and roast in the oven for around 20 minutes or until slightly blackened.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, vegetable broth, bay leaf and parmesan rind (if using) to the saucepan. Now is the time to add potatoes if you want. Bring to a low simmer, put a lid on and cook for 20-25 minutes.
5. Add the lentils, cabbage and smoked paprika and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until the lentils are tender. At this point you can add some pasta e.g. broken up spagetti or small pasta shapes if you like.
6. Tip in the spinach and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes until the leaves have softened. Stir the spinach into the soup and add salt and pepper according to your taste.
7. Remember to remove the parmesan rind and the bay leaves! Serve the soup in large bowls with the roasted peppers, fresh basil leaves and a little grated parmesan on top.