Minestrone is definitely one of my favorite kinds of soup. I love it from the Olive Garden. I love a recipe I found a long time ago from Light and Tasty magazine.
This recipe caught my eye for a couple reasons. It has "real" beans in it. I've never made anything with "real" beans. It has cabbage in it. I've never tried minestrone with cabbage in it. It doesn't have noodles in it. I'm used to minestrone with noodles in it.
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated, January / February 2010 (p. 11)
Serves 6 to 8
Soak beans overnight
Cook and prep time: 90 minutes
1/2 ol dried cannelini beans (about 1 C)
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for serving
3 oz pancetta, cut into 1/4" pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2" pieces (about 3/4 C)
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces (about 3/4 C)
2 small onions, cut into 1/2" pieces (about 1 1/2 C)
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2" pieces (about 1 C)
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced (about 2 tsp)
1/2 small head green cabbage, cut into 1/2" pieces (about 2 C)
1/8 - 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
8 C water
2 C low-sodium chicken broth
1 piece parmesan cheese rind, about 5" x 2"
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 C V8 juice
1/2 C chopped fresh basil leaves
Ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Do ahead: Dissolve 1 1/2 Tbsp salt in 2 quarts cold water in large bowl. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 3 to 5 minutes. You can substitute 2 tsp of olive oil for the pancetta. Next time, I would definitely do this. I didn't like the pancetta in the finished soup.
Add celery, carrot, onion, and zucchini; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 5 to 9 minutes.
Stir in garlic, cabbage, 1/2 tsp salt, and red pepper flakes; continue to cook until cabbage starts to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer vegetables to rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
Add soaked beans, water, broth, Parmesan rind, and bay leaf to now-empty Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and vigorously simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are fully tender and liquid begins to thicken, 45 to 60 minutes. It's important that the soup maintain a "vigorous simmer" in order for the starch from the beans to thicken the soup. And, I needed to stir more than occasionally because the melting Parmesan made the beans stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add reserved vegetables and V8 juice to pot; cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf and Parmesan rind, stir in copped basil, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with olive oil and grated Parmesan.
Next time. . .
Use 2 tsp olive oil in place of pancetta. I didn't care for the texture of the cooked and then boiled pancetta in the finished product.
Use much more zucchini. The zucchini is my favorite part, and 1 C wasn't nearly enough!
Use 2 C low-sodium vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. This change, in addition to EVOO instead of the pancetta, would make for a great vegetarian soup.
Slice the Parmesan cheese off the Parmesan rind and just cook the rind. Cooking the rind with a little bit of cheese on it led to a cheesy, sticky mess.
Serve with a big ol' salad (like the California Pizza Kitchen Chopped Salad) instead of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.