Aunt Suzy says . . .

Recently we had an early September cold snap and I immediately thought “soup!”.  I had some Parmesan cheese rinds in my fridge and had just made some chicken stock, so I thought “minestrone!”.  Not sure I’ve ever made it before, but I love soup with lots of vegetables.  I have a 1973 paperback of Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking, so I started there.  I looked at many recipes for this classic Italian soup – as you might expect, there is no one set recipe.  Marcella’s included “meat” stock made from beef for which I substituted chicken stock.  It did not include meat as many recipes do.  I had some chicken sausages on hand and added those, although I think it would be delicious without.  I found her method of adding ingredients to the base one at a time interesting and unique to all the recipes I looked at.  (This is probably so you can chop the next ingredient while the previous is sauteing!)   This recipe made many meals, so I think it could easily be cut in half to serve 4 people with left-overs.  Enjoy with some crusty bread and a Chianti or Valpolicella!

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 yellow onions, sliced and cut in 1/4 rounds

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

3 cups diced unpeeled potatoes, red or yellow

2 cups fresh green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces

4 cups cabbage, preferably napa, cored, quartered and cut crosswise in 1/4-inch slices

2 flavored chicken sausages, sliced in 1/4-inch half moons (optional)

7-9 cups chicken stock

1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juices

1 teaspoon each dried oregano and dried basil, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper to taste

2 15-ounce cans beans, cannellini or kidney or a mixture, drained and rinsed

1-2 parmesan cheese rinds (optional)

Cooked pasta, ditalini or small elbows (optional)

Grated parmesan cheese

Chopped Italian parsley

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot.  When it shimmers, add the butter and stir to melt thoroughly.  Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes until soft, but not browned.  Add each ingredient, garlic through sausages, one at a time and saute for about 2-3 minutes each, stirring constantly.  Next add the stock, the tomatoes and their juices, the herbs, salt and pepper, the cannelini and kidney beans and the parmesan rinds if you are using.  Adding more or less stock depends on whether you like your soup on the thick or the brothy side.  Stir to blend thoroughly.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about an hour.  The vegetables will be cooked through but not mushy.  When the soup is finished cooking, remove the parmesan rinds.

To serve, put a little cooked pasta (if you are using) in the bottom of a soup bowl.  Pour the soup over the pasta. Pass the grated parmesan and parsley.

NOTE:  As with many soups, this only gets better after a day or two.  If you want to make this to freeze for future use, omit the potatoes.  I’ve found that they turn to mush in the freezer.  Cooked cubes of potatoes can be added later.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

What do you do when you’ve got a rosemary plant going wild like this?  Make this standout soup!  This is another recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which is so delicious it’s tied for first on my list of favorite homemade soups with the Chipotle-Lime Soup with Pumpkin.  Whichever one I’m eating at the moment is my favorite :-).   A nice Pinot Grigio or Soave works well as a wine pairing.

Margaux says . . .

This is one of my favorite soups to make in the winter!  Although, I’ve already made it this year, and it wasn’t even really cold out yet!  I double the pasta amount, and serve it with a lot of pasta in the bottom of the bowl in order to make it even heartier.  That also stretches the soup further, which is good when you’re on a budget! 

The Rosemary Oil

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh or dried rosemary

2 garlic cloves, sliced

Slowly warm the above ingredients until the garlic begins to color – about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

The Soup

2 cups dried cannellini beans or 2 15-ounce cans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary OR  2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1 onion, minced

2 carrots, finely diced

1 celery stalk, finely diced

5 garlic cloves, sliced

1/3 cup chopped parsley

2 1/2-3 quarts filtered water or chicken stock

1 parmesan rind, optional

1 small can diced tomatoes or 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes and their juice

To make with dried beans: Brine the beans by dissolving 2 tablespoons salt in 3 quarts of water in a saucepan. Add the beans, bring to a boil, turn off heat and let rest for 1 hour. Heat the oil with the rosemary in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until the onion is softened and beginning to brown a little – about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and parsley and cook until fragrant – a couple of minutes.

Drain the beans, rinse well and add them to the pot along with the liquid  and optional parmesan rind.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, then simmer covered until the beans have begun to soften – 30 min-1 hour.  Add 2 teaspoons salt and the tomatoes and continue cooking for 30 minutes more or until the beans are cooked through but not mushy.

OR

To make with canned beans:  After cooking the vegetables, add the beans and tomatoes along with the liquid and optional parmesan rind.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Aunt Suzy’s Cook’s Notes:  For years I made this with canned beans. But after reading about brining dried beans before cooking, I have been making many of my bean based soups using this method. It also helps that I am now retired and have plenty of time to cook. 🙂 I also use fire roasted diced tomatoes, although this is great with plain diced. I always make this with chicken stock, but it can be made vegetarian with water or vegan by omitting the cheese that comes in the next step.  Originally this did not call for the parmesan rind, but I’ve also been using a rind in many of the soups we make here at S&SK. If you like a brothy soup, leave as is.  If you like a thicker soup, you can puree part of the soup, to your taste.  This makes a lot of soup, so you can put any extra in the freezer as this soup freezes very well.

Finishing and Serving the Soup

1 cup or more dried small pasta – elbow macaroni, shells, rotini, cavatappi, etc.

Thin shavings of Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta al dente according to directions.  Strain the rosemary oil.  Place a little pasta in the bottom of soup bowls.  We loved this pasta (new to us), Fusilli Bucati, which had a great texture and mouth appeal!

Ladle the soup over the pasta, drizzle a little rosemary oil on top, pepper to taste and top with the Parmesan cheese.

Serve with crusty bread. Check out Randy’s idea for the garlic and rosemary used to create the oil.   I didn’t try it, but he said it was delicious, so don’t discard these after straining the oil.