Minestrone and a new way to cook beans

It snowed last night and actually stuck to the ground . . . pretty early for the Twin Cities . . . melted by afternoon, but more expected tonight. As soon as the weather forecast said “snow”, I started thinking about soup. So yesterday I stocked up on onions and celery and carrots and such. And today I brewed up a big pot of Minestrone, aka Italian Vegetable Soup. I followed Marcella Hazan’s recipe from “The Classic Italian Cookbook”, though I left out the cabbage (I would have added kale, but the store I was at yesterday didn’t have any that looked good) and didn’t bother to leave it boiling for 3 hours . . . after 90 minutes I was too hungry to wait any longer 🙂

I don’t like to post recipes stolen from other sources, but I can give the basics for this soup without much guilt. For the specific details, buy Marcella’s book . . . (my paperback copy cost $5.95 many years ago and may no longer be available . . . her newer edition is called “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” but I’m betting it includes a pesto recipe.

Minestrone Soup

Put some oil and butter in the bottom of a big soup pot. Thinly slice half of a large onion (or a whole smaller onion) and add it to the pot at medium heat. Add to this some chopped carrots, celery, potatoes, zucchini, and green beans (I used 1 cup each of the carrots, celery, and green beans and 2 cups of the potatoes and zucchini). For this recipe don’t bother to prep everything ahead of time, just chop and drop each veggie into the pot, give everything a stir each time, and keep the heat low enough so nothing starts burning.

(Once all the veggies have cooked for several minutes, I would usually add several cups of chopped kale and cook until it wilts a bit.)

Add 6 cups vegatable broth (or a combination of broth and water) and one 15-oz. can of diced tomatoes. Cook at a slow boil until thick (90 minutes – 3 hours). About 15 minutes before serving add 1-2 cups cooked pasta and/or cooked white beans (see instructions below). Just before serving (or in the individual bowls) add a large pinch of parmesan cheese and/or a big spoon of pesto.

Cooking Dried Beans

I’ve always had trouble cooking dried beans. Either they boil too rapidly and split and/or boil over OR I set the heat too low and they don’t cook. Here’s a method I had never heard of before (adapted from Marcella Hazan).

1. Soak beans overnight covered in 2″ of cold water. (I used 3/4 cup of small white beans for my soup.)

2. Preheat oven to 325°F.

3. Rinse and drain the beans and put them in a large casserole dish or pot that can be used both on the stovetop and in the oven and has a lid (I used a 3-quart corning ware casserole dish). Cover with 2″ of water.

4. Bring the beans to a boil on top of the stove. Cover and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for 40-60 minutes. Leave in their water until ready to use.

This method worked GREAT! Nice tender beans with much less hassle.