I'm off schedule again with the Slow Souping; this minestrone was last weekend's soup but when we had an unusually early burst of warm weather, I didn't want to spend so much time in the kitchen. But now the cold (and rainy) weather has returned, and this soup is perfect for that. It does take a while to make this one, but it's worth it because it's really delicious.
This recipe came from Shannon who found it in Gourmet magazine, and I changed it some because I'm trying to eat as much local food as possible. Instead of chard and escarole, I used some Napa cabbage and a bunch of baby red turnips that I found at my farmer's market. It came out great! Recipe and my notes are below.
We've been making soup since November and several of my fellow Soupers have said that they're getting a bit weary of it! I'm not tired of making or eating soup at all, but I AM tired of soup weather. I've got a bad case of spring fever but the good news is, it's definitely on the way even though it's pretty cold here this weekend. We have about a month of soup left and then we move onto Salads. Yay!
Soffritto on the left, soup on the right
Signs of spring in North Carolina
Patience is the key to this soul-satisfying soup chock-full of winter greens. Its depth of flavor comes from cooking the soffritto—a mixture of pancetta, onion, celery, carrots, and the ribs from the chard—for a good 45 minutes and from browning the tomato paste. The result is so savory that there’s no need for broth; water, canned tomatoes, and a parmesan rind work beautifully. And because this soup must cook slowly, don’t worry about prepping all your vegetables before you begin—you can simply chop as you go.
1/3 lb sliced pancetta, chopped
3 medium red onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
3 qt hot water
5 cups coarsely chopped cored Savoy cabbage (6 oz)
5 cups coarsely chopped escarole (1/2 lb)
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about 3 by 1 1/2 inches)
1 (19-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Garnish:extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling; cooked ditalini pasta tossed with oil (optional); grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Cook pancetta, onions, celery, and carrots in oil in a wide 7- to 9-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, while preparing chard.
Cut out stems from chard and chop stems, reserving leaves. Stir chard stems into pancetta mixture with garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and begin to stick to bottom of pot, about 45 minutes total. (Set aside chard leaves.)
Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir paste into vegetables and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. (Paste may stick to pot, but don’t let it burn.)
Stir in tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a spoon, then add hot water (3 qt), scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pot.
Bring to a simmer. Stir in cabbage, escarole, and parmesan rind. Simmer, covered, until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.
Coarsely chop chard leaves and stir into soup along with beans. Simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. Discard rind. Season soup with salt and pepper. If using ditalini, stir in just before serving.
I halved the recipe and used a small head of Napa cabbage and a bunch of red baby turnips (roots and greens). The turnip roots were small (they looked more like radishes), and I diced them small and cooked them with the soffritto. This is a great technique - really gives a lot of flavor without broth.
I chopped the cabbage and turnip greens and added those at the point when the recipe says to add the escarole.
I used turkey bacon instead of pancetta, orzo instead of ditalini, and chickpeas instead of cannellini beans.
It was very good!