Italian Garden Harvest Minestrone
What's Cookin'January 2016
By Lana Granfors
What defines a minestrone? A big, thick vegetable soup with a large array of seasonal vegetables, herbs, pasta and beans, served with shavings of Parmesan cheese.
And what defines an Italian Garden Harvest Minestrone? The same, but for me, it was the actual experience of harvesting the vegetables right from the garden at our rental in Sovicille, Tuscany, Italy. It is a simple dish, but very wholesome. I learned the meaning of la cucina povera, the poor kitchen – peasant cooking using the available products of the land. The flavor of your minestrone will vary from season to season, depending on the vegetables available from your garden, farmers’ market or grocery.
It was raining in Italy the day we made it – perfect conditions to just sit back and enjoy the company of good friends, the aroma of the soup and the beautiful surroundings in this little village in the Siena Province.
We spent more than three weeks in Italy, and we had some amazing meals during our trip, but this meal was by far my favorite and most memorable for many reasons: Vegetables are plentiful right out your back door, the great olive oil, vino of the region of Tuscany, and cooking it with great friends in my dream place… Italy.
Serves 6 - 8
• ½ lb. dried white cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed (substitute 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
• ½ tsp. salt
• ½ chopped pancetta or lean bacon, or Italian sausage
• ¹⁄³ cup olive oil, plus more to cook meat
• 1 red or white onion, medium dice
• 3 carrots, medium dice
• 2 celery sticks, medium dice
• 2 fennel, thinly sliced
• 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• Pinch of red pepper flakes, crushed
• 2 zucchini, medium dice (other options: broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, summer squash)
• ½ lb. potatoes, peeled, medium dice (other options: turnips or parsnips)
• ½ lb. Italian kale, stems discarded, and the leaves chopped (about 6 cups)
• 4½ cup low sodium chicken broth (option: Italian white wine)
• 1 – 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, coarsely chopped with juice
• 2 bay leaves
• ½ tsp. dried oregano
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
• Pasta, cooked according to package instructions (orzo, macaroni, penne, etc.)
Garnish: Olive oil, 2 T fresh parsley, chopped, 2 T fresh basil,
chopped, and grated Parmesan
STEP 1: In a large bowl, let the white beans soak overnight in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Drain and rinse. Place the beans in a saucepan and cover by 2 inches with water or broth and simmer, uncovered, adding more liquid if necessary to keep them covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until they are tender. Add the salt and simmer for 10 minutes more. Remove pan from the heat and let the white beans stand, uncovered.
STEP 2: While beans are cooking, in a heavy pot, drizzle about 2-3 T olive oil, and cook the pancetta, bacon or sausage over moderate heat, stirring until done. Remove to a plate and let drain. Add the remaining oil and heat before adding the onion and cook until softened. Add the carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and the potatoes. Cook this mixture, stirring, for about 5 more minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring, until the kale is wilted. Lastly, add the broth, tomatoes, bay leaves and oregano and simmer the soup, covered, for 45 minutes longer.
STEP 3: Drain the white beans, reserving the liquid. Stir the beans and pasta into the soup and simmer uncovered, for 5-10 minutes, thinning if desired with some of the remaining reserved liquid, and season it with salt and pepper, if needed.
SERVE: Remove the bay leaves. Ladle soup into individual bowls. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a little of the chopped parsley and basil.
NOTE: soup can be made 3 days in advance. Keep covered and chilled. Reheat soup when ready to serve. Thin with water if needed.
Prep time: 30 minutes
(if using dried beans, soak overnight)
cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes