It’s freeeeeeeezing here in New York which practically demands a steaming bowl of soup for dinner. On days like these, I’d prefer to make as few trips out as possible and rely on what I have in my pantry and refrigerator. Granted, my cupboards are rarely bare, but nevertheless, you can throw together a quick and hearty “minestra” with a few staples. Last week, I made the Minestra di Pasta e Ceci pictured below using chick peas, Swiss chard and pasta. Tonight, I’ll use Cannellini beans, escarole, crumbled sausage and potatoes (instead of pasta). I posted the recipe on Facebook and quite a few people (including a few novice cooks) told me they tried it and loved it! This is just about the quickest and most versatile soup you can prepare, no matter what sort of greens, beans or pasta/starch you have in the house. Here are the basic steps:
Minestra (Many Ways)
Recipe by Majella Home Cooking
Combine one cup of tomato sauce (preferably homemade; I obviously use Majella Home Cooking’s very own Salsa di Pomodoro Fresco! – more on that another day 🙂 or a cup of canned peeled tomatoes (crushed by hand) or a tablespoon of tomato paste diluted with a cup of hot water, together with 8 cups of water and 2 celery stalks and a small onion, diced, in a large pot. Bring to a boil and add a can of drained, rinsed chick peas or other beans such as cannellini or kidney. (I happen to have some Italian sausage in the freezer so will remove it from the casing, add it a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute until browned, stirring often and breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon — thus “crumbling.” Remove it from the heat with a slotted spoon, thus eliminating some of the fat, and add to the soup at the same time as the beans.) Simmer for about 10 minutes and add 2-3 cups of Swiss chard or other greens such as escarole or spinach (frozen is fine), cut crosswise into one inch wide ribbons. (If you’re using chard, don’t discard the stems as they are loaded with vitamins and flavor. Simply cut them into half-inch pieces and add to the soup at the same time as the celery.) Return to a boil, simmer for about 5 minutes, until the greens are cooked (escarole takes a bit longer than spinach or chard) and add a cup of short pasta such as tubettini or spaghetti broken into one inch pieces (or some diced potatoes). Simmer until the pasta is just short of al dente as it will continue to cook even after you turn off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese if desired and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Buon appetito and let me know if you have any questions!