Today was the first time I’ve been really happy with my results with a from-scratch minestrone soup attempt, and I give all the credit to Stacey Snacks for suggesting the addition of a rind of parmesan cheese. Soooooooo much better.
This was a day for soup. Our town had a festival sponsored by the local businesses (the Christmas decorations are out in force already), and I got to stand around freezing while Munchkin happily leaped around inflatable castles like a maniac. Ah, energizer bunny. I had made the soup for lunch, but by the time I got back I wanted nothing more than another bowl. The cheese transformed a vegetable soup into a comfort dish.
1 large onion, diced
4-5 large garlic cloves, crushed and minced
4 carrots, chopped into circles
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
6 white button mushrooms, sliced
1 rind of parmesan cheese
1 cans (~400gr) of cooked red kidney beans
1 can (~400gr) of cooked “young” red kidney beans
2 bay leafs
large handful of parsley, washed and tied into a bunch
handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped for serving
3 or 4 tbsp tomato paste
3 or 4 handfuls of dried small pasta shells
1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese, plus a little more for serving
salt and pepper
1 cup dry white wine
water (huh, what’s that? is that organic?)
Fill a kettle with water and bring it to a boil while you put the soup components together.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat and saute the onions and garlic for several minutes, and then add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, fennel and the parmesan rind. Add a few pinches of salt and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Rinse the beans well in a collander and stir into the pot (Note: you can use two cans of red kidney beans, but I liked the texture difference of having normal and young kidney beans, the latter of which Goya sells as “small red beans” or Habichuelas Coloradas Pequenas).
Place the tied parsley on top, add the bay leaves, 6 or 7 whole peppercorns and the tomato paste, and then pour in the cup of white wine and the hot water from your kettle — add water until the level is over the top of the vegetables. Stir gently, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat, cooking covered at a gentle simmer for 40 or 50 minutes. Give it an occasional stir and make sure the tomato paste has disintegrated nicely into the soup.
In another pot, boil your pasta shells in lightly salted water until al-dente and then transfer the pasta to the soup pot. Depending on the desired consistency for your soup, add water from the pasta pot. Cook the soup for another 10 minutes, tasting for salt and pepper. Right before serving, stir in the grated pecorino cheese.
Serve with a little freshly chopped parsley and grated pecorino cheese on top.