Sunday, January 25, 2009

0 Recipe #42: Minestrone di Verdure alla Toscana (Tuscan Vegetable Minestrone)

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Minestrone di Verdure alla Toscana (Tuscan Vegetable Minestrone)

1/2 c. dry, uncooked macaroni, mini shells, or acini de pepe
4-6 c. lightly salted water, seasoned with a drop of extra virgin olive oil (for boiling pasta)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. yellow onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled & minced
1/2 c. baby carrots, sliced into rounds (about 12 baby carrots)
1/2 c. celery (about 1/2 stalk), chopped
1 large bay leaf
1/2 c. red wine
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, julienned (about 6 large leaves)
2 Tbsp. fresh flat leaf parsley, finely minced
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, leaves only (about 1 sprig)
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, leaves only (about 8 springs)
1/2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, leaves only, finely minced (about 1/2 sprig)
1 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
8 c. water or low-sodium vegetable stock
1 c. red-skinned potatoes, skins intact, scrubbed & cubed (about 1 small potato)
1 c. zucchini, cut into rounds & then quartered (about 1 small zucchini)
1 1/2 c. raw green cabbage, shredded
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1-6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 c. canned kidney beans, drained & washed
16 oz. fresh raw spinach (pre-cooked) (makes about 1 c. cooked)
1/2 c. raw green beans, snapped (destemmed) & cut into thirds (about 12 green beans)
ground black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
Asiago cheese shavings (Vegans can substitute with a sharp-tasting, vegan imitation cheese.)

Directions: Cook 1/2 c. pasta in lighted salted water, seasoned with a drop of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking together, until al dente. Cooking time varies depending on pasta type/brand, so follow package instructions. (Barilla brand macaroni takes about 9-11 minutes.) Then drain, & set aside. While pasta is cooking, sauté the onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil on low-heat in a large sauce pot (i.e., 8 qts. or larger) until soft. Season with a small pinch salt to reduce faster. Add bayleaf. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pot for about 3 minutes on high heat. Make sure to scrape off any ingredients still sticking to the bottom of the pot. Next, add all fresh & (remaining) dried herbs. (Do not add salt & pepper at this stage.) Cook for another  minute, and then add the chicken stock. Stir well. Next, add potatoes, and cook for another few minutes, until they just start to soften (but are still somewhat firm to the touch). Next, add zucchini, cabbage, tomatoes, and tomato paste, and continue to cook until ingredients start to soften. Then add kidney beans, spinach, and green beans. Green beans are put in last because they should still retain a bit of their crunch when the soup is served. (There's nothing worse than mushy green beans!) Taste the soup at various stages of cooking, and adjust seasonings accordingly; this should also help you avoid overcooking the vegetables. (Vegetables should retain their color and have a consistency much like lightly steamed vegetables.) When finished, remove from heat and set aside. Remove bayleaf, season with salt & pepper to taste, and combine with cooked pasta, mixing thoroughly. Ladle soup into bowls, adding Asiago cheese shavings while soup is still hot (causing the cheese to melt). Garnish each bowl with the tender shoots (the tops) of a rosemary sprig.

Yield: Makes approximately 8 qts. of soup.

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