27 February, 2013 by shortcaked
I will be the first to admit it: I’ve been kind of a grouch and a pain in the ass to be around this week.
There’s a decent reason for it, I swear; I’m not just unhinged. But for the sake of you-really-don’t-want-to-hear-it, I’ll just leave it at ‘grumpy Bee is grumpy’. Tack on lack of sleep for reasons of the above and you do not have a happy camper.
Today being Tuesday and Tuesday being the Star Day of Suckage for Reasons, I glare-fested my mom into letting me make my numero uno big time comfort food forever: her grandmother’s minestrone.
(This would be the great-grandmother of mine who is off-the-boat Italian and from all I remember of her, an incredible lady. And an awesome cook.)
I think she only humored me because she knows I’ve been glum, because soup and dad-sandwiches (p.s. my dad makes the best sandwiches in the world, and that is what this soup is being eaten with) is something that gets reserved for weekends. Not brought out Tuesday nights.
Something about slacking, I don’t know.
In return I left out the potatoes (because we don’t have any, shh). My mamabear hates potatoes, which I’m sure makes Sam Gamgee a sad panda.
The great part about this recipe is that though it totally exists…I never follow it. Nobody in my family does. We just sort of know the things that great-grandmama Casinghino told us we should be doing, and then we go from there. Minestrone is the most flexible soup in the history of forever, because it’s made to be. This is the soup that Italian grandmothers have been making for yeeears from whatever leftovers they had in the fridge, and in all that time it has stayed the best thing ever.
It’s kind of like tradition-soup for Italians. And that’s half of why I get all the warm fuzzies when I eat it, because I’m chowing down on part of that tradition.
The other half would be that it’s also delicious, spoiler alert. And it’s great for a comfort food; it’s got that tomato-soup richness with the heartiness of something more like a stew.
Long story short: minestrone is one of my favorite things ever.
I’ll give you great-grandma Casinghino’s recipe, but I challenge you not to follow it. Do you, like my mother, not like potatoes? Don’t put them. Sub them for cauliflower, like we did last night. Want to throw in some greens? Go wild. I’m a fan of chard in my minestrone, and if you put the stems in when you saute the onion you get a really rich flavor. It’s the amazing multipurpose soup.
Unfortunately I can’t give you the recipe for my dad’s god-sandwich, because I think it’s just a super power and cannot be replicated. But I can show you what it looks like.
Great Grandma Casinghino’s Minestrone
NOTE: If you’ve been reading along at home, I think you know by now why I left out quantities on 90% of the things in this recipe. Minestrone isn’t a soup you really use a recipe for, outside of the basic steps with regard to prep order (and sauteing the tomato paste, that’s a biggie).
- 2-3 strips bacon, roughly sliced
- garlic, diced
- onion, chopped
- salt and black pepper
- sage, fresh or dried
- parsley, fresh or dried
- 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
- green peppers
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or water, if you’re short on broth)
- 1 15-ounce can ceci beans, drained
- 1/3 cup small pasta; elbows work nicely
- parmesan cheese
- Bring a large Dutch oven up to medium-high heat. Add the bacon and allow the fat to render slightly before adding the garlic and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, parsley, and sage; cook 1-2 minutes more to allow the spices to toast. (Always. Toast. Your. Spices.)
- Add the tomato paste and cook 2-3 minutes more; the mixture will be niice and fragrant. From your list of vegetables, add in anything that’s going to take more than a few minutes to cook: this would be your hard root vegetables, your potatoes, your starchy anything.
- Let the vegetables cook about 3-4 minutes; add anything soft (zucchini and other squash-types, leafy greens) and cook another 2-3 minutes before adding the broth and the tomato sauce. Reduce heat to medium and let the soup simmer for at LEAST forty minutes. (More is always better.) Stirring occasionally to bring up all the brown bits is always a good idea.
- About fifteen minutes before serving, add in the cecis; at about eight, add the pasta. Let cook until the pasta comes up al dente. Serve with crumbled or grated parmesan.
What are your comfort food must-haves– do you have a go-to food that makes you feel better no matter what?