Monday, October 29, 2012

Joey's Chunky Minestrone

  I've told this story before, but I think it's worth retelling.... 
When I was growing up, my Mom would always make a big pot of soup on Halloween. She had her hands full with getting all of us into costume, and then off we'd go trick-or-treating. (Of course, the door bell was ringing every 10 minutes with other treat seekers.) There was no getting all of us to sit down to dinner at one time, since all of us would be coming and going at different times of the day, depending on how cold it was outside, or if someone was having costumes issues. So, the easiest thing to do was to just put a big pot of soup on the stove, and everyone could grab a bowl at any time. Most times it was her famous vegetable soup, but sometimes it was something equally as hearty, such as beef barley.
 I decided to do a Minestrone for this year's Halloween soup because it hits all the same notes as my Mom's soups. I looked at several recipes but couldn't decide which one to use. So, instead, I decided to do my own. It has a rich broth, it's hearty and healthy, and it warms you up and fills your belly. Of course, you don't have to serve it just on Halloween. It's just the thing for any crispy Autumn night or any time Jack Frost decides to stop by. I hope you like it!

a couple glugs olive oil
3 strips bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 15 oz can cannelini beans, rinsed
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 29 oz can whole tomatoes, drained, chopped
1 fresh rosemary sprig
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
a big bunch of curly kale, stems removed, chopped
1/2 cup ditalini pasta
 handful of chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

In a large heavy pot, add the olive oil and bacon over medium heat. When the bacon renders some of its fat, add the onions, garlic, and celery. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, then add the zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add the broth, water, beans, tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Let it continue to cook for another half hour (or as long as it takes to clean up the kitchen), stirring every now and then. Add the kale, pasta, and parsley. Cook for another 10 minutes. If the soup is too thick after the pasta is cooked, add a little more broth or just water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve each bowl with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and some warm crusty bread.

This recipe is WIDE open when it comes to substitutions.
Add diced potatoes instead of pasta.
Add spinach or any other leafy greens instead of kale.
Add diced green beans or any other vegetable instead of zucchini or squash.
Add any kind of miniature pasta shape you like instead of the ditalini.
Add vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
Add any kind of beans or chick peas instead of the red or white kidney beans.
Add any kind of fresh herbs. Basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, fresh or dried, it all works.
See what I mean? Any or ALL of the above will make a delicious and hearty soup. And if you like a lot of something, add a lot!
Basically, you just need your aromatics (celery, onions, garlic, carrots), your vegetables, broth, herbs, starch (pasta or potatoes), beans, and greens.
As my Mom used to say, "Just throw everything in the pot and let it cook."

No comments: