I have been so slow to post this recipe despite the fact that I have made it, and soups derived from
it’s base, multiple times in the past couple of months. What I love about this soup is that it has the perfect flavor base for just about any soup you want to make…I’ve made this ribollita (Italian bread soup), a pesto meatball vegetable soup, and more of a minestrone from it. The key is chopping (in this case, food processing) the vegetables finely so they flavor the broth really well and even become part of the broth. And you don’t have to cook it for all that long to get a lot of flavor. But one of the biggest secrets is throwing in a Parmesan rind…and that goes for any vegetable or Italian-style soup. It makes the broth so much richer. You can keep Parmesan rinds in your freezer and toss them into a soup whenever you need one. This recipe is the best I’ve had and was adapted slightly from Food 52. It makes 7 quarts, so it serves about 10-12.
2 T olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey (optional)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped (optional)
2 carrots cut in thirds
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 c parsley
6 to 8 garlic cloves
1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes in puree
3 T tomato paste
2 t salt
1 t black pepper
1 t dried Italian seasoning
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t crushed fennel seeds
5 c chicken broth
3 c water
1 14 to 15 ounce can chick peas
2 14 to 15 ounce can cannellini beans
5 cups chopped cabbage
4 cups chopped fresh spinach (I leave this out)
1 c small, dry pasta such as ditalini
4 slices stale white bread, crusts removed
additional salt and pepper to taste
In at least an 8 quart soup pot, brown the ground turkey in the olive oil if using. Remove from the pot and set aside. Place the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is a little finer than a dice.
Place the mixture in the soup pot and saute until the mixture softens a bit. (Add some more olive oil if it starts to stick). If you aren’t using ground turkey, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil here for the saute.
Add the turkey, salt, black pepper, red pepper, fennel seed and Italian seasoning to the pot. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hand as you add them to the pot. Add the tomato paste, broth, water and Parmesan rind, bring the mixture up to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, chick peas and cannellini beans and simmer another 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. (I cook the pasta separately and add it to each bowl I serve to prevent the pasta from getting too soggy.)
Tear the bread in pieces and add along with the spinach leaves. Simmer until the spinach wilts. Re-season with salt and pepper if needed.