The Weather is Beautiful and the Veggies Aren’t
I could wax rhapsodic about the beauties of fall–there’s a chill in the air, the leaves are turning, the woodland creatures are busy gathering nuts for a long winter. And yes, that’s all true. But there’s also another truth here in the Northeast that no one really talks about–the vegetables are going to suck for the next 6 months. Forget about plump, juicy tomatoes. And fresh sweet corn. And zucchini the size of the space shuttle. Forget about pretty much anything but root veggies and hearty greens.
And that, my friends, is why you make minestrone. It’s a delicious, hearty way to make the most of what’s plentiful, reasonable, and still worth eating. And this was very worth eating–plus it makes enough to freeze.
2 tsps olive oil
4 oz pancetta, diced
1 super large onion, chopped (you want to wind up with about 2-3 cups)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste (I use the kind in a tube, so I don’t have waste)
1 cup of white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
2 qts of vegetable broth ( I like Pacific Natural Foods Organic Veg Broth)
1-2 in. rind from a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano (you could omit this, but you’d regret it)
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1-15 oz can of diced tomatoes
2-15 oz cans of cannellini beans
1 tbsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme, s&p to taste
1 bunch of dark leafy greens, cleaned really well and rough chopped (I used Swiss Chard, but you could use escarole, spinach, kale, or even a mix of greens)
1 sack of tiny pasta (I used soup shells, but you could use ditalini, tubbetini, or anything really small–or just leave it out)
- Heat up olive oil over medium heat in a great big honking stock pot. Saute pancetta, until it starts to give up some of its fat.
- Add onions, celery, and carrots and continue to saute until onions turn translucent.
- Add garlic and tomato paste and keep stirring. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until you start smelling the garlic and tomato paste.
- Add white wine, and stir really hard to get up all the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Now drop in the Parmigiano rind (see the notes at the bottom of the recipe about this). Add all the broth, the potatoes, the canned tomatoes, the beans, the herbs and spices.
- Raise the heat to high, and bring the giant pot of soup to a boil.
- Once the soup comes to a boil, immediately drop the heat back down to a gentle simmer, and add the chopped greens.
- Cover the soup and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender.
- If you want to add pasta, cook it separately and drain really, really well.
- To serve, remove the parmigiano rind from the pot, and adjust the seasoning. Put some of the pasta in the bottom of the soup bowl (we used about 1 cup of soup shells per bowl), and ladle the soup on top.
- Add garlic bread, semolina bread, or some other crunchy on the outside-soft on the inside bread, and you have a meal.
Make friends with the counter guy at your local Italian market or the cheesemonger at your local cheese shop. They’ll give you a Parmigiano rind, and even some prosciutto ends (which are great in lentil soup). If no one is giving up the goods, buy a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano. You can eat the cheese on its own or grate it over something. Trust me, it’s worth the cost for this recipe.
If you decide to omit the chunk of cheese, top the soup with grated parm before serving.
This soup made enough for dinner two nights, plus a bunch for the freezer. Don’t add the pasta to the soup, if you’re freezing. Just cook up some pasta to add to the soup when you thaw and serve.