Thursday, February 25, 2016


Just about every region of Italy has its own minestrone or “big soup.” This was a basic, hearty soup for Italians in the new country. For Minestrone alla Genovese, add a dollop of basil pesto sauce on top of the soup. For Minestrone alla Milanese, add arborio rice instead of pasta and omit the pesto sauce.

Soffrito “underfried”
¼ lb (125 ml) pancetta, diced
2 T (30 ml) extra-light olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium leek, cleaned, white part diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced

In a large pot or Dutch oven, fry the pancetta over medium high heat until golden.
Add the oil to the pot and sauté the onion, leek, and celery until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another minute.

1 (28 oz/796 ml) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
2 T (30 ml) tomato paste
1 small savoy cabbage, cored and chopped
1 (3-inch/7.5 cm) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme, tied together with cotton butcher’s twine
1 t (5 ml) freeze-dried or chopped fresh basil
1 t (5 ml) freeze-dried or chopped fresh oregano
1 T (15 ml) chopped fresh rosemary leaves
12 cups (3 qts/3 litres) chicken stock

3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
3 medium carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half moons
2 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half moons
¼ cup (60 ml) chopped Italian parsley
1 small bunch Swiss chard leaves, trimmed of stems and chopped
1 (14 oz/398 ml) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup (250 ml) ditalini or ditali pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for the table

Pour tomatoes into a bowl and hand-crush them, removing the hard center cores.
Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.

In the pot with the soffrito, stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cabbage, cheese rind, bay leaves, sprigs of thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, and chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, lower heat, partially cover and let simmer 30 minutes, stirring a few times.
Add the potatoes and carrots and simmer another 30 minutes.

To the pot, add the zucchini, parsley, Swiss chard, beans, and pasta.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Simmer until pasta is al dente, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Remove the cheese rind, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs, before serving.

Sprinkle with a little more parsley and serve with crusty bread and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

Serves 4 to 6

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