Saturday, April 18, 2009

Minestrone alla romagnola

My grandmother, Nonna Rosina, came from a region in Italy called Emilia Romagna. This is why we chose Emilia's name, as a reminder of my and her heritage. Her middle name is 'Rosa', in memory of my beloved grand-mother.

And this soup is from the Emilia Romagna. Basically it is a Minestrone like most of us are familiar with. And since I have made this soup for years my way, I never bothered to consult a recipe. This time however I wanted to see how this Minestrone was different from mine...and getting back in touch with my heritage, I wanted to make a soup like my grandmother would have eaten it.

Vegetable Soup, Romagna style
Minestrone alla romagnola
by Marchella Hazan
The vegetables do not go in all at once but in the sequence indicated. By first sauteing the onion you prepare the essential underlying flavor which can then be imparted to the other vegetables, in their turn. While one vegetable is cooking, you can peel and cut up another. It is a more efficient and less tedious method than preparing all the vegetables at once.
450g fresh zucchini
8 tbs extra virgin olive oil
45 g butter
3 onions, very thinly sliced
4 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
225g potatoes, peeled and diced
115g fresh French beans
170g shredded cabbage, preferably Savoy
400g tinned cannellini beans, drained, or 115 dried white kidney beans, soaked and cooked
1.5 l homemade meat stock
crust from some Parmesan
170g tinned Italian plum tomatoes, with their juice
6 tbs freshly grated Parmesan
serves 8
Choose a large saucepan that can subsequently comfortably contain all the ingredients. Put in the oil, butter and sliced onion and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook the onion in the uncovered pan until it wilts and becomes coloured a a pale gold, but no darker.
Add the diced carrots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice, Then add the celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 or 3 minutes. Then add the potatoes, repeating the same procedure.
While the carrots, celery and potatoes are cooking, soak the French beans in cold water, rinse, snap off both ends and dice them.
Add the diced French beans to the pan and, when they have cooked for 2 to 3 minutes, add the zucchinis. Continue to give all ingredients an occasional stir and, after another few minutes, add the shredded cabbage. Continue cooking for another 5-6 minutes.
Add the broth, the optional cheese crust, the tomatoes with their juice and a sprinkling of salt. Give the contents of the pan a thorough stirring. Cover the pan and lower the heat, adjusting it so that the soup bubbles slowly, cooking with a steady but gentle simmer.
When the soup has cooked for 21/2 hours, add the drained, cooked or tinned cannellini beans, stir well, and cook for another 30 minutes. If necessary, you can turn off the heat at any time and resume the cooking later Cook until the consistency is fairly dense. Minestone should never be thin and watery. If you find that the soup is becoming too thick before it has finished cooking, you can dilute it a bit with some more homemade broth.
When the soup is done, just before you turn off the heat, remove the cheese crust, swirl in the grated cheese, then taste and correct for salt.

Serve with a crusty garlic bruschetta
toast some nice sourdough bread, rub the hot toast with a clove of garlic, drizzle olive oil over it and a sprinkle of sea salt

Looking at the photo you can see that I cooked my minestrone for much less than 2 1/2 hours. I was running late that day...but we've been having the soup for the last couple of days and it has improved in taste and looks. Last night I also added some pasta shells and some chickpeas. A complete meal.

Fireman G running to the dinner table

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