Marcella Hazan’s Minestrone alla Romagna

Don’t feel constrained by the specifics. If you don’t have green beans, leave them out. If you want to use a mixture of zucchini and yellow squash, as I often do, go for it. If you’re worried about the starch, forgo the potatoes (but not the white beans, as therein lies the character of the soup). By all means, leave out the butter and reduce the oil. I added torn pieces of kale to the pot pictured here, and I almost always use chicken stock, whereas Marcella calls for her own Basic Homemade Meat Broth. To make the soup really sublime, garnish with grated parmesan, freshly grated black pepper, and a drizzle of good olive oil. Serve with toasted bread brushed with olive oil and rubbed with garlic. This recipe has been altered only ever so slightly. As my mom would have told you, you don’t mess with Marcella.

½ cup extravirgin olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup onion sliced very thin

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

2 cups peeled, diced potatoes

¼ pound fresh green beans

1 pound fresh zucchini, diced

3 cups shredded Savoy cabbage or regular cabbage

1 ½ cups canned cannellini beans, drained, or ¾ cup dried white beans, soaked and cooked

6 cups Basic Homemade Meat Broth (or chicken stock)

Optional (but recommended): the crust from a piece of parmigiano-reggiano cheese

2/3 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, with their juice

Salt

1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Choose a stockpot that can comfortably accommodate all the ingredients. Put in the oil, butter, and sliced onion and turn on the heat to medium low. Cook the onion in the uncovered pot until it wilts and becomes colored a pale gold, but no darker.

Add the diced carrots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice. Then add the celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 or 3 minute. Add the potatoes, repeating the same procedure.

While the carrots, celery, and potatoes are cooking, soak the green beans in cold water, rinse, snap off both ends, and dice them.

Add the diced green beans to the pot, and when they have cooked for 2 or 3 minutes, add the zucchini.  Continue to give all the ingredients an occasional stir and, after another few minutes, add the shredded cabbage. Continue cooking for another 5 to 6 minutes.

Add the broth, the optional cheese crust, the tomatoes with their juice, and a sprinkling of salt. If using canned broth, salt lightly at this stage, and taste and correct for salt later on. Give the contents of the pot a thorough stirring. Cover the pot, and lower the heat, adjusting it so that the soup bubbles slowly, cooking at a steady but gentle simmer.

When the soup has cooked for 2 ½ hours, add the drained, cooked cannellini beans, stir well, and cook for at least another 30 minutes. If necessary, you can turn off the heat at any time and resume the cooking later. Cook until the consistency is fairly dense. Minestrone ought never to be thin and watery. If you should find that the soup is becoming too thick before it has finished cooking, you can dilute it with a bit of broth.

When the soup is done, just before you turn off the heat, remove the cheese crust, swirl in the grated cheese, then taste and correct for salt.

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