I stopped at the Farmer's Market in town this morning. It had been calling to me for weeks. After finishing my other errands, I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning and chopping so that I could make my absolute favorite!
Traditionally, Minestrone soup is a vegetable in beef broth soup. While I have a basic recipe that I follow, this has become one of those dishes that I do not measure and add or subtract ingredients as the local harvest allows. This is the ultimate in soups and one I crave year round.
To give all credit where it is due, my rendition of Minestrone is loosely based on the recipe by Marcella Hazan in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. She says "The result is a soup of dense, mellow flavor that recalls no vegetable in particular, but all of them at once." She continues "Note that all the ingredients do not go into the pot at one time, but in a sequence that is indicated. By first sauteing the onion you produce the essential underlying flavor, which is then imparted to the other vegetables in turn."
Having made alterations over time, I have found that 3 things contribute most to the flavor of this soup: 1) the theory of cooking them in sequence, 2) the addition of cheese and 3) the beef broth. With this in mind, I shop from my local farms (or my own garden when I had one). Whatever I can bring home, goes into the soup.
As you can see, today I brought home a number of squash and zucchini, tomatoes and green beans. To this I added potatoes, celery, carrots, onion and canned beans (garbonzo, cannellini and kidney). I follow no set measurements and just clean and cut the veggies as my mood allows.
To begin, melt 3 TBSP butter in 1/2 cup olive oil.
Add in 1 cup onion, sliced very thin. Cook until it turns golden but not brown then add vegetables in turn, cooking 2-3 minutes between additions.
Zucchini (and other squash)
Add 6 cups Homemade Meat Broth (or 2 cups canned beef broth with 4 cups water) Adjust the amount of liquid to the amount of vegetables you add.
2/3 cup canned Italian plum tomatos (or use fresh tomatos and canned tomato sauce)
and an OPTIONAL crust from a 1-2 pound piece of parmigiano-reggiano cheese, scraped clean.
Add a sprinkling of salt. Check for taste later.
Cook at a gentle simmer for 2.5 hours then add the canned beans and cook for another 1/2 hour.
Cook until the soup is fairly dense.
My opinion is that this, as many Italian dishes, is better the second day. This soup freezes well as long as you dont mind your beans exploding while frozen.
THIS IS MY FAVORITE SOUP! Enjoy it and let me know what you think of it!