|My Minestrone, Ann's Black Pepper Pecorino Bread|
Sometimes, there are benefits to owning a restaurant, such as having quarts of ready-prepped mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) and slabs of house-cured pancetta in the walk in. That along with diced tomatoes, a piece of white cabbage, and a bulb of fennel comprised the vegetables in the soup. Seasonings were pancetta tesa, a sprig of rosemary, garlic, pesto, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Beans were canned cannellini, though in summer I use fresh bird egg beans and chunks of flat romano beans. Pasta, because of the terribly limited selection of soup pastas at the grocery store, was ditalini.
I started by trying the cubed pancetta in extra virgin olive oil with the stalk of rosemary, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and the slivered garlic. Once the pancetta and garlic went transparent, in went the carrots, onions, celery, 3/4s of the cabbage, and 3/4s of the sliced fennel.
To prep fennel, cut off the stalks and peel off any tough outer parts. Quarter the fennel vertically. Remove the core by cutting each of the four pieces on the bias. Then slice each piece horizontally against the grain into 1/8" (4mm) slices.
After the vegetables sweated for about five minutes, I added the tomatoes, the cheese rind, and a quart each of chicken stock and water. At this point, the vegetables simmer for about 30 minutes. Still to go into the pan: the beans (already cooked, don't want to overcook), the pasta (it goes in for the last 10 minutes), the pesto (doesn't need to cook, swirled in just before serving), and the remaining cabbage and fennel (goes in five minutes before serving, for freshness and crunch).
When I was ready to serve dinner, I brought the soup to a boil, seasoned it, and added the beans, and the pasta. Five minutes later, I added the cabbage and fennel. When the pasta was done, I swirled in the pesto and served.
The soup was particularly delicious and about as simple as can be. A couple days later, my Italian wife confessed that she had only ever eaten minestrone out of a can! How can this be? How do you grow up in a multi-generational Italian family and not have fresh minestrone? I suspect that there is no going back to the can now for her; she has been spoiled.
|Getting Her Hands Dirty|
|Ann's Delicious Black Pepper Pecorino Bread|