Close this search box.

Blonde minestrone with white pepper from In Praise of Veg

Servings: 6
Cavolo nero is to my mind far easier to work with than the frilly conventional kales. It’s kind of like continental parsley versus curly parsley, with the latter only ever really working in sauces such as gremolata (or butcher-shop windows). This soup is fairly set-and-forget, once you get past the chopping bit. And if you make it after a particularly frustrating work day, the chop-chop is about as meditative as a session of kick-boxing, really. The minestrone also gets better with a day or two in the fridge, as the flavours all get to know each other better. Unlike the traditional red minestrone with pasta, the heroes here (aside from the cavolo nero) are the parmesan rinds and butter, which give everything a golden, glossy glow. Even if you’re on your lonesome, make up a full batch and take a flask of it to work every day, slurp away, and you might find that suddenly nothing seems as frustrating as it once did.


  • 50 g butter or olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb (approx. 500g), diced, fronds reserved
  • 3 celery stalks sliced
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 1 bunch of cavolo nero approx. 500g, leaves torn off and finely shredded, thinner stalks finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • ½ tsp celery seeds
  • 2 potatoes peeled and chopped into 2cm chunks
  • 8 cups 2 litres vegetable or chicken stock
  • 400 g tin cannellini beans
  • parmesan rinds optional
  • lemon juice to taste
  • grated parmesan to serve (optional)


  • Melt the butter in a large soup pot, then sweat the onion, garlic, fennel, celery, carrot, cavolo nero stalks, white pepper and celery seeds with the lid on the pot, until the vegetables have softened – this should take about 12 minutes.
  • Add the potato, stock, cannellini beans and parmesan rinds, if using. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potato is fork-tender.
  • Take the pot off the heat, stir in the shredded cavolo nero leaves, season to taste with salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper, then squeeze in some lemon juice to finish.
  • Garnish with a final twist or two of cracked black pepper and some grated parmesan, if you like.


If you’re after more parmesan rind than you have at your disposal, ask your local deli or cheese shop if they have any handy. You might find yourself the proud owner of a bunch of ready-rinds – a total win-win!
I’ve given the option of using olive oil instead of butter. Pop in a few sliced brown mushrooms to up the umami factor, and sprinkle nutritional yeast flakes on top instead of the crumbled parmesan.

Sign up for regular recipes