Minestrone and other soups are very popular in Tuscany, where the clever and thrifty cooks are legendary for exquisite soups made largely from leftovers. There are both winter and summer recipes for minestrone; classically, the soup is only made from vegetables in season. This recipe combines elements of both versions, but feel free to use whatever vegetables you like.
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock (dissolve Knorr stock base in water)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup each chopped onion, carrots and celery
1 leek, split lengthwise and rinsed well, white and light green parts only, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons each dried rosemary and thyme
1 bay leaf
pinch hot red pepper flakes
1 zucchini, diced or 1 cup frozen
1 summer squash, diced or 1 cup frozen
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14 ounce can Cannellini or white kidney beans
2 cups fresh or 1 cup frozen spinach or Swiss Chard leaves, chopped
1 cup small soup pasta like tiny shells or orzo or ditali
Jarred Pesto and grated Parmesan cheese to serve
4-6 slices bacon, diced or 2 cups diced cooked ham (optional)
Rind from a wedge of Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add garlic, onions, leeks, celery and carrots and sauté until softened. Add herbs and cook 3 minutes more. Add vegetable stock, rind of Parmesan cheese (if using) and remaining vegetables and beans. Simmer 20 minutes over medium low and then raise heat to bring to a boil.
Add 1 cup pasta and cook until pasta is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot and put a spoonful of pesto in each bowl and then garnish with Parmesan cheese. For a variation, add some chopped bacon to the olive oil and cook until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels; add back to the soup right before serving. Cooked ham can also be added with the vegetables and allowed to simmer into soup.
Monday, August 11, 2008