Minestrone: Hearty Italian Soup
This is not your typical 20-minute, light-broth minestrone; in fact, it looks more like a stew than a soup, and there is no pasta in it. It gets baked in the oven for two hours instead of cooked on the stovetop. That way, the vegetables have time to break down slowly and the flavors to develop and blend, resulting in a remarkably good, hearty dish.
The recipe comes from Anne Willan’s memoir One Soufflé at a Time. She used to teach a French cooking class at the Hotel Cipriani in Venice and was introduced to this version of minestrone by a Venetian man named Carlo Maria Rocco. He insisted on not thinning the soup with water, even if you’re tempted to do so. It should be so thick that a spoon stands up in it. And if you want to simplify the recipe, you can use fewer ingredients—just increase the quantities in proportion.
- Serves 4
- ½ cup white kidney beans
- 1 medium tomato
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled, cut into ½-inch chunks
- 1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into ½-inch chunks
- 1 stalk celery, trimmed, cut into ½-inch chunks
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch chunks
- 10–14 green beans, trimmed, cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 1 potato, peeled, cut into medium dice
- 3 leaves kale or savoy cabbage, finely shredded
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 piece Parmesan cheese rind, plus ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup fresh basil, leaves only, finely shredded
- Soak the beans overnight in cold water or for minimum 8 hours. Drain and set aside.
- Core the tomato and score a cross on top. Place it in a small bowl or a cup, and submerge fully in boiling water. Let sit for a minute or two, until the cross opens. Drain and cool in cold water, and then peel, cut in half, and scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds, chop the tomato into small pieces, and set aside.
- Tie the thyme and bay leaf in a bundle with kitchen string.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or large, ovenproof stockpot. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the white beans, tomato, carrot, celery, zucchini, green beans, potato, kale, peas and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and pour in the water. Tuck in the cheese rind and the herb bundle. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender and falling apart, about 1½–2 hours. The minestrone should have the consistency of a risotto. Add more water during cooking if the vegetables seem too dry.
- Remove from the oven, discard the Parmesan rind, and stir in the basil. Taste again and adjust seasoning. Serve drizzled with your favorite olive oil.