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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Minestrone (The Big Soup)

I just love how Italians give such playful names to their foods  like Angel Hair Pasta, Priest Strangler, Pick Me Up, Little Ears, and The Big Soup as in the meaning behind Minestrone. It is named so because of its many ingredients. This famous soup is originally from  Liguria in north/western Italy although most regions of Italy have their own vegetable soup which they call a minestrone.  Minestrone is even better the next day so go ahead and make a double batch for dinner and lunch the next day. Or, make this soup for your family and anyone you know who is sick or going through a rough patch along with some good bread. Minestrone is perfect for this because it's healthy, hearty, and easily transportable. If you decide to do this just make sure to not add the pasta but rather place it in a separate container for them to add themselves.
1 cup mushrooms wiped and chopped into bite size pieces
2 TBL. Olive oil & 2 TBL. Butter
Salt & black pepper
Italian seasonings
Red pepper flakes
1 onion chopped
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bunch greens chopped: swiss chard, spinach, kale, etc….)
2 TBL. fresh parsley & basil chopped to add at end
3 small boiling potatoes peeled and chopped OR 1 large sweet potato peeled and chopped
4 tomatoes (fresh or canned) chopped
2 cups cooked and drained pasta about the size of the beans(wheels, shells, elbow, ditalini, broken spaghetti)
2 cups cooked and drained or canned/drained red beans or  white beans
* OPTIONAL 1 piece Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese rind (either save this from your cheese wedge in the freezer or you can purchase it from your deli)
Grated Parmigiano cheese and a hearty bread for serving at the table
*Optional: serve with pesto
Cook the pasta, drain, and set aside.
In a large heavy bottomed pot melt the oil & butter and sautĂ© carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and a large pinch of salt  (This is known as a Soffritto) until tender (10 minutes)over medium heat
Add mushrooms, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, greens (chopped), parsley, seasonings, another inch of salt and black pepper, and  saute for a few minutes (10) until the greens are wilted.
Add wine, turn up the heat,  and cook out alcohol for a 2 minutes
Add the broth, and enough water to cover by 1 inch, cheese rind, and bring to a low simmer, lower heat to maintain this low simmer and cook uncovered until thick about 1 1/2 hours: adding more water if it becomes too thick

You may now turn it off, cover, and set aside until 20 minutes before serving. Then return to a low simmer just before serving.
Remove the cheese rind or chop it up into little pieces and add back to the soup.
Add the parsley and basil.
Add the cooked pasta to each bowl and then ladle the soup on top OR if you plan to eat the whole pot at one sitting add the cooked pasta directly to the soup.
Serve with bread,  Parmesan cheese and pesto if you like!

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