Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mastering the Minutiae - Minestrone alla Genovese

Minestrone.  Is there any soup so quintessentially Italian?  I think not. Is there any soup that is more satisfying?  I think not.  Is there any soup so open to interpretation?  I think not.   WOW, that's a lot of "not" thinking.  :)

Minestrone is often misunderstood.  It's not so much an actual recipe as it is a STYLE of soup.  If you have ever watched Rachel Ray, you will be familiar with her "Stoup" concept.  Whether you choose to view it as a thick soup or a brothy stew... that pretty much describes Minestrone.  Thicker than soup but not quite a stew.  Which is why it seems to stick to your ribs so well in the cold winter months.

Though Minestrone is more of a "whatever you have lying around" kind of dish, there are still two main varieties.  Milan & Genoa.  Minestrone alla Milanese is what most Americans are familiar with, made popular by such brands as Progresso.  It typically contains at least a little meat, tomatoes and pasta, along with a plethora of other ingredients that are completely at the discretion of the chef.  There is, however, another manifestation of Minestrone that is my personal favorite; the meatless version from Genoa in northern Italy.

Not that I am a Vegetarian or Vegan, by any stretch of the imagination; I just find the combination of multiple greens, mushrooms, potato, pasta and white beans to be more to my liking.  Granted, if you so desired you could add tomatoes or any other various ingredients to the melee.  But there is ONE rule with Minestrone from Genoa... It must, Must, MUST be finished off with a couple hefty tablespoons of that ever so evocative of Genovese ingredients..... Pesto.

Minestrone alla Genovese

1 oz dried Porcini (this will be about 3 oz (85 g) after soaking)
8 cups Water, divided
3.5 oz (100g) Leek, sliced
4 oz (113g) Swiss Chard, chopped
4 oz (113g) Spinach, chopped
2 tsp Kosher Salt
10 oz (285g) Zucchini, peeled, quartered and sliced  (about 2 small)
8 oz (226g) Japanese Eggplant, peeled and cubed (about 2 small)
10 oz (285g) White Potato, diced (about 2 small)
2 TB Olive Oil
4  oz (113g) (1 cup) Ditalini or other small Pasta (I used Gemelli this time, cause it was in the cupboard)
12 oz (340g) (2 cups) Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
2 -3 TB Pesto Genovese
optional - Pecorino Romano

Soak the Porcini in 2 cups of warm water for 30 minutes.

Remove the mushrooms and reserve the liquid.

Rinse the Porcini under cold running water to remove any grit.

Dry them with paper towels.

Chop them and set them aside.

Strain the liquid through cheese cloth or a coffee filter.

Pour the "Mushroom Stock" into a 6 quart Stock pot.

Add the remaining 6 cups of water to the pot along with the Kosher Salt and apply a medium flame.

Remove the stems from the chard, and chop the remaining leaves.

Chop the Spinach.

Slice the Leeks

Peel, quarter and slice the Zucchini.

Peel, and cube the Eggplant.

Dice the Potato.

Drain and rinse the Cannellini Beans

When the salted Porcini Water comes to a boil, add the Porcini, Leeks, Chard, Spinach, Zucchini, Eggplant and Potato.

Drizzle the whole thing with Olive oil.

Reduce the flame to low and simmer the soup for 1 hour, uncovered.

Add the Pasta and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

Add the Cannellini Beans and simmer 5 minutes longer.

Just before serving, stir in the Pesto.

Adjust seasoning with Black Pepper and additional Kosher Salt if needed.
Serve as is, or with a sprinkle of freshly grated Pecorino Romano.


1 comment:

DutchBakerGirl said...

Oh my, this looks good! I just read the recipe to Pete (we are in the car)...all the ingredients are now on my list. :)