It's finally feeling like December here in Central Alabama, and I, for one, couldn't be happier. I get pretty irritated by the idea of wearing shorts on Christmas Eve just so I can enjoy a roaring fire in my den without dying from heat stroke. Plus, I love soup. Any kind of soup: soup for lunch, soup for dinner, soup for dessert (more on this later). But I don't love breaking a sweat when enjoying my soup, so if it's above 70 degrees, no soup for me! Now though, the chilly temps are here, bringing with them the desire to spend some quality time with my dutch oven making big batches of my favorite liquid meals. This is one of them: Winter Minestrone. The dish is just one of the gems in Giada de Laurentiis' cookbook "Giada's Family Dinners." And while it's pretty much perfect the way she makes it, I tinkered with the recipe just a bit to suit my personal tastes (and my forgetfulness). I added Italian sausage and ground beef to make it heartier (and I got this idea from one of my besties, Amy); I left out celery and potatoes because, well, I forgot to buy celery and potatoes. I added extra beans to compensate. I added sweet peppers because I'm currently suffering from a sweet pepper addiction. And upon spying some lonely kale in the fridge, its curls starting to unfurl, signaling its imminent demise, I decided to substitute it for chard. You can really add or delete any veggies you like and maybe even add some meatballs instead of sausage and ground beef. The two things you can't mess with are the pancetta and the parmesan rind. Without these ingredients, this soup will fall flat. So here's the recipe with my additions/deletions. Find the original version here. Oh, and if you don't gobble it up all at once, it's even better the next day.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 3 to 4 small sweet peppers, chopped
- 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
- ½ pound ground beef
- ½ pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound Swiss chard, kale or collards stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
- 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
- 2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
- 1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind
- Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, pancetta and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the greens; saute for 2 minutes. (If you use kale, it will need to cook down about 5 minutes more.) Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with 1/4 cup of the broth in a processor until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth and Parmesan cheese rind. Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in the whole beans.. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Discard Parmesan rind and rosemary sprig.