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Winter Minestrone

January 7, 2009

winter minetroneI rarely make soup and home- I’m not talking about chili or hearty bean or lentil soups- I’m talking about soup, soup with a light broth.  I just look at soup recipes and think I won’t feel full, and I don’t want a giant pot hanging around my house for days.  But when I saw the minestrone recipe in the January Gourmet, I really wanted to make it.  It is chock full of vegetables, has pasta and is simmered with pancetta and Parmesan rind- the recipe promises that it’s really richly flavored.  So, feeling like I needed to under-indulge after the holidays, I decided to make it on Sunday.  I’m glad I did- it’is rich and flavorful and feels healthy.  And like most soups, gets better every day.  I served this with my garlic bread, which was great for sopping up the broth.

The magazine said this serves 8, but that seems like a joke- it has to be more like 12.  See my note below on the water in the recipe- maybe that was the difference.

Ingredients:

1/3 lb sliced pancetta, chopped
3 medium red onions, chopped (obviously I didn’t use these)
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 T tomato paste
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
3 qts hot water (okay, my magazine said 3 quarts and online said 1 quart, so you make the call- I added 3 quarts and it seems right)
5 cups coarsely chopped cored Savoy cabbage (6 oz)
5 cups coarsely chopped escarole (1/2 lb)
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about 3 by 1 1/2 inches)
1 (19-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 lb box of small pasta, such as ditalini, cooked al dente
Parmesan for top
Directions:
Cook pancetta, onions, celery, and carrots in oil in a wide 7- to 9-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, while preparing chard.
Cut out stems from chard and chop stems, reserving leaves (use stems only if you bought green chard- I bought red, which has red stems that would turn the soup hot pink, so I didn’t use the stems).  Stir chard stems into pancetta mixture with garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and begin to stick to bottom of pot, about 45 minutes total. (Set aside chard leaves.)
Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize- about 2 minutes. Stir paste into vegetables and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. (Paste may stick to pot, but don’t let it burn.)  Stir in tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a spoon, then add hot water (3 qt), scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pot.  Bring to a simmer. Stir in cabbage, escarole, and Parmesan rind. Simmer, covered, until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.

Coarsely chop chard leaves and stir into soup along with beans. Simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. Discard rind. Season soup with salt and pepper. If using ditalini, stir in just before serving and top with Parmesan.

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