While I am exhausted with a newborn baby, a girl still has to eat! And there are few things more comforting on a freezing winter afternoon than a hot bowl of thick minestrone. It’s rich and flavorful, with the added bonus of being pretty healthy. I love to make big batches of this soup for a crowd, or to store for a weeks worth of lunches. One of the keys to this minestrone is the Parmesan rind. It is the same trick that my husband Pete uses in his Bolognese sauce. It is the small, salty bite that comes from the sharp cheese. You can also choose how thick you like your minestrone, by changing the amount of broth that you use. If you like more broth, then add an extra 2-4 cups of chicken broth or water. This is a recipe for a large pot of soup, but who doesn’t want leftovers!
¼ lb of pancetta, or lean bacon, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped in a ½ inch dice
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 cups carrots, chopped in a ½ inch dice
3 cups celery ribs, chopped in a ½ inch dice
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 ½ cups of fresh or frozen green peas
2 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
8 cups of chicken broth
1 1/2 cup red wine
2 Tbs dried oregano
2 Tbs fresh basil
2 16oz cans of drained and rinsed great white northern beans
2 cups small shell pasta
1 rind of Parmesan cheese
In a big, heavy stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Fry the pancetta in the oil, until it starts to become crispy. Add the onions and garlic and let them cook until they are browned and tender. Then add the carrots and celery sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher salt, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the potato and 4 cups of broth and cover the pot to cook for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add the peas and red wine, and cook uncovered for one minute further. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano and the broth, and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low.
Cook the soup for about 1 hour. Then add the basil, pasta and the beans. Simmer, on low heat, uncovered for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.
This soup is even better a day or two after making it!