The ultimate winter comfort food - Minestrone

January 27, 2016

 

It's winter. I would love it only if I was in a winter resort.

I understand the change of season and the need that country has of water and cold weather, it all makes sense in the economy of the great mother heart.

 

I just don't like it.

 

It is wet, and cold, plus winter clothes make me fat...

 

Yes! I am not fat,

 

I have fat clothes... 

 

However, along with the regular heating system, the pellet stove that warms my home, and the movies, watched cuddled on the couches with the kids that warms my heart (today we'll re watch Labirynth) what's better than a soup to warm my body... Yes, wine, but not now, ok?

 

I am watching Labirynth with my kids, folks, so soup is on..

 

Minestrone is one of those soups that don't have a real recipe. It is the the ultimate pantry and fridge cleaner.

 

Everybody has his own recipe. I don't like peas in my minestrone, my mum doesn't like spinach, lot's of people like pumpkins ( I don't), my aunt doesn't add potatoes, but adds celeriac, my son hates cauliflower, we all love beans, but not the cannellini ones (that I hate) we love borlotti.

 

Which one is the true recipe? Simple, all of them.

Like many other Italian dishes, Minestrone was born as a necessity, the way for farmer's wives to feed the family hurting the family economy the least possible. The vegetable gardens that everyone had, would provide the ingredients, a few potatoes, some cabbage leaves, a couple of carrots and celery, pumpkins in winter, green beans in summer. A little pasta or a little rice where available, and the family was fed.

 

Of course now it is all different, you buy what you want when you want, but still I like to go to the market every time and see what's available, so, Here is what I generally do.

 

I cut in small pieces two carrots, 3 medium sized zucchini, 3 stalks of celery, one medium size onion, 2 medium size potatoes and a couple of handful of washed, green beans, cut in pieces. After rinsing all well I put it in a decent size pan, along with olive oil and half a glass of tomato puree, over a gentle flame, I let the vegetables cook slowly for about 15 minutes, this way I'll mix and obtain more flavor from each individual vegetable, I add a leek, well peeled and washed, cut in rings, a few chopped up tomatoes, seeds, skin and all. You can add even a handful of peas.

Just don't tell Matteo.

 

On a side, while the harder vegetable are cooking, I prepare a mix of fresh spinach, savoy cabbage, swiss chards and, if I have any, Also some black cabbage (kale), you can add pieces of cauliflower or roman cabbage,

I wash all this greens and cut them in pieces of half an inch wide. 

 

I put them along with the other greens, add a pinch of salt and cover, to gently let this all wilt. I will check every now and then that nothing burns.

 

Once the greens are wilted I put in the beans: honestly, most of the times I do not have time to soak the dried ones, actually I do not even buy them, so when they are in season, I buy them in bulk, shell them rinse and dry them and then I freeze them, so I can use them in any soup and they will cook in a reasonable time (about 30min). In lack of that, I will add a can of beans, minus the water they are preserved in.

 

Now, you have the option, either cover with boiling water and let all simmer for about a couple of hours OR cover all with boiling water close all in a pressure cooker and let simmer for about 45 min. Given my ethernal lack of time, I usually do the latter.

 

The minestrone soup is done, as you notice there is no meat, pancetta in it. 

 

You can serve it with pasta, rice or by itself.

 

We like rice in it, but I do not cook the rice in the soup as the left overs will become a thick gluey risotto paste, this is how I do it: On a side I will cook and drain the rice (we do not like pasta with it, but if you like it, you can use it instead). When composing the plate, I put a few tablespoons of rice in the bottom and cover with the soup.

 

Francesca likes it all blended ina puree and served on the rice, Matti likes it on its own with no rice, I can do either or. 

 

 

Buon Appetito, stay warm.

 

 

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