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Today's recipe comes with a lesson in Italian, compliments of the Epicurious food dictionary. (Sorry, I'd share the link but Epicurious keeps breaking the links. Google and your Veggie Evangelist don't approve!)
"Minestra" [mih-NAYS-truh] means "soup" in Italian. Most often, it refers to a soup of medium thickness, frequently with both meat and vegetables.
"Minestrina" means "little soup" in Italian. It's a thin broth.
"Minestrone" means "big soup"! It's usually a thick vegetable soup containing pasta and sometimes peas or beans, usually topped with grated Parmesan cheese. It's hearty enough for a complete meal!
That makes my version of minestrone someplace in between. It's hearty but tastes light and has just a few calories. My notes on a recipe card dated 1999 read, 'Excellent! Light! Filling!' And so it is.
"I've had this for lunch for five days running and it is fabulous ..." ~ Stephen
HOMEMADE MINESTRONE SOUP
Time to table: 1 hour
Makes 11 cups
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion
2 leeks, cleaned, cut in half moons (see this photo tutorial about how to clean leeks)
9 cups stock
4 cups chopped green cabbage
2 cups chopped zucchini
1 small piece of Parmesan rind, optional
3/4 cups tiny pasta such as orzo or riisi
3 cups fresh spinach, stems removed, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil in summer or winter's less expensive cilantro)
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh Parmesan, grated, to serve
In a very large pot, heat the wine on MEDIUM HIGH heat while prepping the first vegetables. Add the celery, onion and leek as they're prepped, simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage, zucchini and Parmesan rind, return to a simmer and let cook about 10 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Transfer to bowls, top with freshly grated Parmesan.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
GET OUT YOUR BIG POT! This recipes makes a lot of soup. It doesn't freeze well so you might adjust the quantities for less.
WINE, REALLY? The wine "makes" this soup, I think. It adds an acidic balance to the creaminess of the stock and even the vegetables.
NO LEEKS? Skip them entirely or substitute another vegetable with a little sweetness. A parsnip made one memorable pot of minestrone.
HOMEMADE STOCK Want to become a better cook? Start making stock, truly it's not the production some people make it out to be, it's really No.Big.Deal. In fact, that's exactly what I call my favorite stock, No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock. Usually it starts with the bones and carcass of a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and nine times out of ten, it's been frozen in canning jars. That said? It's pretty much a sure thing that back in 1999 when I started making this soup, I didn't make stock either. Just find one you like the taste of, chicken, vegetable, mushroom, etc.
SOUP TRICK Whenever I make soup, I like to bring the stock to a boil in the microwave while prepping the vegetables, it helps keep everything moving.
CONSOLATION PRIZE I vote that whoever doesn't get the ooey-gooey-chewy parmesan rind be award ice cream or something because the real prize is the rind. Never toss the rind from parmesan and other hard cheeses, you can even collect bits of hard cheeses and save them for soup.
DAY TWO By the second day, the pasta tends to suck up all the broth. So if you plan to make ahead and serve the next day, two suggestions. First, stop cooking after the cabbage and zucchini have cooked and refrigerate overnight. The next day, bring the soup to a boil, then proceed. Second, cook the pasta separately and stir into individual servings or what's being rewarmed that day.
TRADER JOE'S ORZO PASTA It's not good, it blows up into large too-soft, totally mushy pasta. I'm partial to the DeCecco brand.
SPINACH STEMS If you use the ever-so-tender baby spinach that comes prewashed in bags, be sure to remove the stems before adding to the soup and cook for just a minute.
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MORE HEARTY BUT LOW-CALORIE SOUP RECIPES~ Cabbage & White Bean Stew ~
~ Peasant Cabbage Tomato Soup ~
~ Greens 'n' All Beet Soup ~
~ more soup recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ How to Make Homemade Vegetable Soup ~
~ Laura's Healthy Carrot Soup ~
~ Quick Cauliflower Soup or Quick Broccoli Soup ~
~ Spinach Soup with Perfect Hard-Cooked Eggs ~
~ more soup recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column