Every weekend during winter, a big pot of soup bubbles away on my stove. A good soup can be a one pot wonder. I always make sure there's enough in the pot for dinner, and a few workday lunches throughout the week.  The best soups are huge, hot and hearty. I like to make ours healthy with loads of fresh vegetables, a few herbs, plenty of garlic and some tummy filling protien. One of our favourites is a ham hock minestrone, this soup is so thick that even the men of the household are happy to eat it as a meal.


The Original recipe for this Minestrone was by Gary Mehigan, I found it in the BBC Good Food Magazine a few years ago. Gary used bacon bones and speck in his minestrone which makes the soup deliciously smoky and rich. My version, is a more economic, slightly healthier minestrone using a cheaper ham hock. It's still delicious and hearty.

M hock ham hock minestrone

Ham hocks are available from supermarkets, delis and some butchers. This cut comes from the lower leg of the pig. This area comprises mostly of thick skin, cartilage and bone. For this reason the hock needs to be simmered in water for some time to tenderise. This will enable you to remove the skin, allowing the meat to fall easily off the bones. The meat is shredded and added to the soup just before serving.

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To prepare the hock I will often place it in the slow cooker in the morning, it will ready to use when I make the soup in the evening. I have also cooked ham hocks in a pressure cooker, it takes around 30 - 45 minutes this way. If you prefer you can just throw it in a pot of water and let it simmer on the stovetop for 1.5 - 2 hours or until it's tender.  Whichever method you use to prepare your ham hock, allow it to cool off a bit while you prepare the rest of the minestrone ingredients. When your minestrone is simmering, you will be able to shred the meat from the ham hock bone easily, without burning yourself.

ham hock minestrone M pasta M veggies 

One of the ingredients in this soup is cavolo nero, it's a type of kale. I love using this leafy green in this soup recipe as it does not distinegrate too easily. Its a good idea to remove the tough stalk that runs up the centre of the cavolo nero leaf before you shred it. If you prefer you can use any kind of kale or spinach instead.


Ham Hock Minestrone


serves 4-6



1 Ham Hock

1 tbsp olive oil

1.5 litres chicken stock

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 carrots, diced

1 zucchini, chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 small bulb of fennel, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1-3 fresh bay leaves (or one dried)

2 thyme sprigs

2 pinches dried Italian herbs

2 tbsp tomato paste

400 grams tinned tomatoes

150g orecchiette pasta

1 small bunch (or about three handfuls) cavolo nero shredded (remove the stalk and tough centre vein) 

400gm cannellini beans, rinsed, drained


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To Serve:

grated parmesan

crusty bread

basil pesto (optional)


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  1. Prepare the ham hock by placing in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to boil and simmer 1.5 - 2 hours until      tender. Remove from pan, drain and allow to cool slightly while other ingredients are prepared. When the ham hock is cool enough to handle, shred meat and set aside.
  2. Using a medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, celery, carrot, zucchini, fennel bay leaves, thyme and Italian herbs for 6 mins.
  3. Add tomato paste, tinned tomatoes and chicken stock, bring to the boil.
  4. Add orecchiette pasta and simmer for approx. 8-10 mins until pasta is al dente.
  5. Stir in shredded ham hock meat, cavolo nero and cannellini beans. Cook 1-2 minutes until heated through and pasta tender. 

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Serve in bowls topped with a little basil pesto and grated parmesan cheese

Enjoy with crusty bread or sourdough on the side.