Sunday, May 8, 2011
Best Ever Minestrone
It's taken me so long to write about this soup because San Diego has been experiencing a terrible heat wave the past few days. And when I say terrible, I mean terrible. It's the kind of heat that's heavy, that makes you feel sticky and tired and miserable. Food hardly looked appetizing, much less this steamy soup. But now that the weather's cooled off (albeit only slightly), I can revisit this soup and tell you all about it.
Rao's minestrone soup, to be precise. Rao's is that really famous Italian restaurant in New York City where it's down right impossible to get a reservation. It's the big leagues of Italian cooking, and you can bet your bottom dollar those guys make amazing minestrone. I found out about this recipe when I tried it at my friend Emma's house. After one bite, I was swooning. After two bites I was head over heels in love. And after three bites I was ready to say my vows and commit the rest of my life to this soup. It's that good.
This minestrone soup is delicious. I mean it this time, dear readers. This is officially my favorite soup ever. I usually do not like chunky soups, and minestrone's usually one of my least favorite. But this is heavenly. It's rich and filling, singing of simple Italian flavors. The smell of this soup fills your house as it slowly simmers away, the flavors developing gently but deeply. I won't try and tell you that you can throw this soup together in a flash, because really, you can't. This soup takes time and love, but it is oh-so worth it in the end. Please give it a try. It's perfect in every way, and I don't say that (very) often.
Best Ever Minestrone Soup
Slightly adapted from Rao's Minestrone Soup recipe
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped leeks
1/4 cup Italian parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced new potatoes
2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups canned whole tomatoes, with juice
5-6 cups chicken broth (depending on how thick you like your soup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups cannellini beans
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for serving
1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, leeks, parsley, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and begin to brown slightly and leeks are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add remaining vegetables (potatoes, carrots, celery, zucchini, and peas) one at a time, sauteing each for about 3 minutes and seasoning with salt and pepper as you add more vegetables. When all the vegetables have been incorporated, add the tomatoes, tearing each tomato into big chunks with your hands as you add it.* Add chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, with the lid half off the pot, for at least one hour.
3. Add beans, reserving 1/2 a cup in a small bowl. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add one or two ladles of broth to the bowl of reserved beans, and mash the beans into the stock until a paste is formed. Add this mixture back into the soup, stirring well, and cook a few minutes more until soup has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Serve with a generous sprinkling of Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.