A complete meal in a bowl, this is a version of a classic Italian soup. Traditionally, the person who finds the bay leaf is honored with a kiss from the cook.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 75 ml / 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 glass white wine (optional)
  • 1 litre / 1¾ pints / 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 400 g / 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 300 ml / ½ pint / 1¼ cups passata (bottled strained tomatoes)
  • 175 g / 6 oz / 1½ cups dried pasta shapes, such as farfalle or conchiglie
  • 400 g / 14 oz can borlotti beans, drained
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 250 g / 9 oz spinach, washed and drained
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve
Other pulses, such as cannellini beans, haricot (navy) beans or chickpeas, are equally good in this soup.
  1. Place the chopped onion, celery, and carrots in a large pan with the olive oil. Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the bay leaf, wine if using, vegetable stock, tomatoes, and passata, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are just tender.
  3. Add the pasta and beans, and bring the soup back to the boil, then simmer for 8 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Stir frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove any thick stalks from the spinach and add the leaves to the mixture. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Serve in heated soup bowls sprinkled with the freshly grated Parmesan.
    • This soup is also delicious with chunks of cooked spicy sausage or pieces of crispy cooked pancetta or bacon simply add to the soup at the end of Step 3 and stir it, making sure that the meat is piping hot before serving.
    • For vegetarians, you could use fried chunks of smoked or marinated tofu as an alternative to meat.