Hearty Minestrone

You might want to make this the cover

Remember when Easter meant that the weather was starting to get warm? Maybe I am having selective memory, but I recall many Easter Sundays spent outside having Easter egg hunts and enjoying the nice spring weather.  Every year I had a special outfit for Easter, usually some kind of floral dress, likely with a huge collar.  And I don’t recall tights being a part of the outfit.  Not so much this year.  The calendar says spring and Easter, but the weather says otherwise, at least here in NYC!

But the one silver lining to the cold weather is the fact that I am still craving soup pretty much all the time. I professed my love for soup here and I’m back today with what I think is my favorite soup recipe that I have made all winter!  That’s because bacon and parmesan cheese are involved. The soup is full of healthy veggies, white beans, and a surprising ingredient (v8!) but the real depth of flavor comes from the bacon and the cheese rind.

When you finish a block of parmesan (and make sure it is the good stuff), save your rind and pop it into the freezer. It imparts the most delicious nutty, cheesy flavor to soups and stews. The particular rind I used for this batch of soup still had a decent amount of cheese on it. While it was great for the flavor, it was slightly messy. Clumps of cheese kept sticking to my wooden spoon! But the end flavor made the mess totally worth it.

Veggies

Veggies and soaked beans ready to be cooked.

Veggies in the pot

Sautee the veggies in the rendered bacaon fat.  Always a good idea to cook with bacon fat.

Veggies

Put the cooked vegetable mixture on a sheet pan while you boil the beans.

Cabbage and such

Wilt in the cabbage and garlic.

Um? Butter in the pot now?

Remove the veggies and add the beans, water, broth, bay leaf, and rind to the pot.  Not a pretty picture, but I wanted you to see the beautiful cheese rind floating in there!

"Baby, you got a stew going"

Add the veggies back to the pot along with the V8.

IMG_1763

Garnish with fresh basil, and voila! Hearty Minestrone.

Hearty Minestrone
Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients
•Table salt
•1/2 pound dried cannellini beans (about 1 cup), rinsed and picked over
•1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
•3 ounces pancetta or bacon cut into 1/4-inch pieces
•2 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
•1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
•2 small onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
•1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
•2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
•1/2 small head green cabbage, halved, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
•1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
•8 cups water
•2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
•1 piece Parmesan cheese rind, about 5 by 2 inches
•1 bay leaf
•1 1/2 cups V8 juice
•1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
•Ground black pepper
•Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions
Dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

If you are pressed for time you can “quick-brine” your beans. Combine the salt, water, and beans in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans and proceed with the recipe.

Heat oil and pancetta or bacon in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 3 to 5 minutes. Add celery, carrot, onions, and zucchini; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 5 to 9 minutes. Stir in garlic, cabbage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes; continue to cook until cabbage starts to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer vegetables to rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

Add soaked beans, water, broth, Parmesan rind, and bay leaf to now-empty Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and vigorously simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are fully tender and liquid begins to thicken, 45 to 60 minutes.

Add reserved vegetables and V8 juice to pot; cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf and Parmesan rind, stir in chopped basil, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with olive oil and grated Parmesan.

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8 thoughts on “Hearty Minestrone

    • The original recipe says, “To make this soup vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth and 2 teaspoons of olive oil for the pancetta”. Let me know if you try it!

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