Serves: 8

Preparation time: 30 minutes 

Cooking time: 45 minutes

• 30 ml butter

• 45 ml olive oil

• 1 large white onion, chopped

• 1 bunch spinach, well rinsed

• 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

• 3 stalks celery, chopped

• 1 clove garlic

• 200 g bacon bits or pancetta

• 30 ml tomato paste

• a sprig of rosemary

• 2.5 L good quality stock (preferably homemade)

• a handful cabbage, chopped

• a large handful Iceberg lettuce, chopped

• 1 tin (400 g) borlotti beans, drained and rinsed

• 250 ml tubetti or pasta rice

• basil pesto, to garnish (optional)

• about 90 ml finely grated Parmesan

1 Melt the butter and oil in a large pot and sauté the onion until soft and glossy. While the onion is frying, remove the veins of the spinach and finely chop the veins and leaves separately.

2 Stir the carrots, celery, spinach veins and garlic clove into the onion and fry until the vegetables start to caramelise. Add the bacon bits, tomato paste and rosemary and cook for a few more minutes.

3 Add the stock and bring to the boil. Add all the leaves and beans, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

4 Add the pasta and cook for a few more minutes – remember that the heat of the soup will soften the pasta while it stands. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot with a dash of good quality olive oil or a spoonful of pesto and a sprinkling of Parmesan.

* The combination of finely chopped onions, carrots and celery fried in olive oil as the base for soups, stews and casseroles is called a soffritto in Italian cuisine (in French it’s a mirepoix); it means ‘slowly sautéed’.

Remember that the pasta will expand when it is boiled and it will absorb some of the liquid – don’t add too much or it will affect the balance.

Tip For extra flavour, add the hard Parmesan rind to the soup while it’s cooking.