This is the way minestrone is made in Romagna. It's not a lot of prep time, but you simmer the soup for a long time until all of the vegetable flavors mellow into one mild but delicious soup. The subtle flavors of this soup are even more delicious the next day, so it is a good dish to prepare in advance of guests arriving for a weekend, or to bring on a ski trip. Other than the onion, pretty much all of the vegetables can be substituted for other vegetables that are available, on sale, etc. I recently cooked it without the zucchini and it was still delicious. This is another dish adapted from Marcella Hazan.
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Goes Well With: crusty Italian bread, manicotti
Wine and Drink Pairings:
1 pound fresh zucchini
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. butter (optional: I leave this out and it tastes great)
1 c. onion sliced thin
1 c. diced carrots
1 c. diced celery
2 c. peeled, diced potatoes
1 c. fresh green beens chopped
3 c. Napa, Savoy, or regular cabbage shredded
1.5 c. canned cannellini or white kidney beans drained
3 c. vegetable broth (beef or chicken broth are OK too. Use 6 cups is you have fresh broth which is less salty. We use "better than bouillon" in a jar.)
3 c. water
1 c. canned Italian plum tomatoes with juice
Salt to taste (requires generous salt)
1/3 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese (parmesan) freshly grated
Optional: Crust/rind of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese that you grate for the soup, cut free from the cheese and cleaned.
The preparation (mostly dicing) for this dish can be done while the vegetables are being sauteed. Here is the ideal order, but only the Onion needs to be done in this order.
Soak Zucchini for 20 min. Then trim ends and dice fine.
Choose a large stock pot, put on medium-high, and add the oil, butter (optional) and sliced onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes until onion is translucent.
Add the diced carrots, cook 2-3 minutes stirring at least once.
Add the celery and cook 2-3 more minutes.
Add the potatoes and cook 2-3 minutes.
Add the green beans and cook 2-3 minutes
Add the shredded cabbage
After a few minutes, add the broth, water, cheese crust (optional), tomatoes with juice, and a sprinkling of salt. Thoroughly stir the pot. Cover and lower the heat, adjusting so that the soup bubbles slowly at a steady simmer.
After 2.5 hours add the drained cannellini or white kidney beans. Stir well and cook for another 30 minutes. You can turn off an resume heating later at any point. The consistency should not be thin and watery...it should be thick with vegetables. If it is too thick for your liking, though, you can dilute with a cup of broth or water.
When the soup is done, remove the cheese rind, add the grated cheese, taste and correct for salt. It will likely need quite a bit more.
I would recommend turning off the soup and letting it sit for at least thirty minutes uncovered to cool. Serve with freshly ground pepper on the table and encourage adding pepper to taste. Serve with a dry, crusty Italian bread.