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Minestrone Classico

Minestrone Classico

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Serves 8 to 10.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from various recipes.

This minestrone is a combination of the Genovese and Milanese classics. For example: Milanese includes meat and Genovese does not, Genovese uses pasta and Milanese uses rice. One important modification is the use of vegetable stock. The original recipe called for water, simmering the soup for an hour to extract flavor from the vegetables. After an hour, the vegetables would be reduced to mush. Using stock reduces the cooking time drastically and improves the flavor.

Ingredients:

2 cups dried white beans; soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed (discard soaking water)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ pound (110g) Swiss chard; leaves only
¼ pound (110g) spinach; leaves only
3 ounces (90g) mushrooms (if using dry porcini soak for 20 minutes and save the liquid for the soup)
2 small zucchini (about 125g each); diced
¼ pound (110g) prosciutto; preferably in one piece.
2 medium white potatoes (about 400g each); diced
1 medium eggplant (about 350g); peeled and diced
Other vegetables could include carrots, onions, tomatoes, parsnip, celery, rutabaga—feel free to improvise
8 cups vegetable stock; preferably homemade (chicken stock can substitute)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups small soup pasta, such as salad pasta, tubetti, etc.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pesto or grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for garnish

Directions:

Heat about 6 cups of water to boiling and add the soaked beans. Return to the boil and reduce the heat to low. Cook the beans in barely simmering water for about 1½ hours, or until tender.

While the beans are cooking, rinse the chard and spinach leaves to remove all debris and then coarsely chop. Dice the mushrooms and zucchini and set aside. If using carrots or other vegetables, dice those as well. The size of the dice should be similar to the size of the dry pasta. Dice the prosciutto fine, about half the size as the diced vegetables.

The potato and eggplant will turn brown if left diced for a while; so dice those just before adding to the pot.

When the beans are cooked, drain and rinse, discarding the water. Heat the stock in a large soup pot until it comes to the boil and then add the oil, beans, diced vegetables, and prosciutto. Return to the boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 5 to 6 minutes until the denser vegetables (such as carrots) are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta separately according to package directions, as the cooking time will likely be longer than that required for the vegetables. Combine the cooked pasta with the soup.

Serve in bowls by topping with a generous spoonful of pesto or garnished with grated cheese.