This recipe is hearty and flavoursome in the tradition of the Italian classic, the name of which means ‘big soup’ – it’s also quick and easy to make.

You don’t have to be strict about the ingredients you use – it really is a case of whatever you can find in the drawer in the fridge and any shape pasta you happen to have. Any leftovers can be heated up the next day with an extra splash of water if it’s too thick (and a cheeky splash of dry sherry when serving, if it’s a tough day!).

Makes 2 adults and 2 kid-sized portions
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-4 smoked streaky bacon rashers diced (optional)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery sticks, finely sliced
3 veggies from your fridge, about 200g/7oz, chopped, such as courgette, carrot, small red pepper, handful of green beans, small leak
750ml/26fl oz / 3 cups hot vegetable stock
750g/1Ib, 10oz, 3 cups tinned chopped tomatoes or passata
75g/2 1/2 oz spaghetti or linguine, broken into small pieces, or small pasta shapes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
green pesto (optional)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1) Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and bacon, if using, and cook for 5 minutes until the onion is beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic, celery and any chopped veggies and cook for about 5 minutes.
2) Add the stock, tomatoes and pasta, bring to the oil, then reduce the heat to medium and leave to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables and pasta are all tender. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
3) Ladle the soup into bowls, top with a spoonful of pesto, if you like, and serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

How to make Parmesan Croutons
If you have a loaf of bread that’s gone beyond its best, don’t just give it all to the ducks. Have a go at making some cheese croutons to scatter over your weekend soup. To make enough for 4 adult-sized portions, simply remove the crusts from the 2-3 slices of bread and cut each piece into about 1cm/1/2in cubes. Toss with 2tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese. Tip onto a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 220c/425f/gas 7 for 10 – 12 minutes until golden and crunchy, turning a couple of times. Leave to cool slightly.

Extracted from Madhouse Cookbook by Jo Pratt text © (2013), published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London (£20 Hardback). From Madhouse Cookbook by Jo Pratt  © Commissioned Photography © Gareth Morgans/ Duncan Baird Publishers 2013

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