When my southern husband moved me and our two babies to Atlanta, in my tiny galley kitchen, I learned to make minestrone soup from memory, trying to create something that tasted like home to me because I was horribly homesick. I have made it the same way ever since because my soup turned out exactly like my mother’s and my kitchen smelled like home.
1 bunch of fresh organic celery hearts with leaves, diced up
3 large organic carrots, scraped and sliced into half rounds
2 large organic Idaho potatoes diced into ½ inch dice.
½ a small organic green cabbage
1 – 2 medium organic zucchini (optional)
1 – 2 cans of Italian cannellini beans, undrained
3 slices of organic bacon, chopped fine
3 peeled organic garlic cloves sliced up
1 large organic onion, diced fine
4 plum tomatoes & 3-4 tblsp juice from can of Italian imported tomatoes
8-10 cups of water
2 tblsp organic olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tblsp chopped fresh organic herbs such as basil or thyme
Core the half head of cabbage, and cut into ¼ inch slices. Cut the slices crosswise. Now it is shredded enough to go into a 2 quart saucepan filled with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep in reserve until ready to add to your soup.
Take out a large dutch oven, place on medium high heat, add the olive oil and heat until oil is shimmering. Throw in the diced bacon and onions. It should make a nice sizzling sound. Don’t stir right away. Let the bacon start to brown and begin to render its fat. Turn the heat to medium if it seems too hot. While continuing to stir the onions and bacon, make a small hotspot in the dutch oven and add the garlic there, keeping an eye on it so it turns golden, but does not burn. Nothing tastes worse than burned garlic.
Now sauté until the bacon and onions are golden and the bacon has rendered most of its fat. Stir the garlic into the bacon and onion mixture. Using a heavy pot holder, tip the dutch oven and spoon out most of the fat, leaving only one or two tablespoons on the bottom of the pot. With the heat still going, now add the celery, potatoes, carrots and zucchini and stir them into the bacon mixture for a minute or so.
Next, stir in the tomatoes and juice. Add the cabbage, the 8 – 10 cups water (use cabbage water as part of the water), salt and herbs. Bring the soup to a boil and simmer for an hour or until vegetables are cooked, but not mushy and still have a bite. Add cannelini beans fifteen minutes before soup is done.
Serve this soup with crusty Italian bread and pass a dish of grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top. Serves 8 – 10.
* If you are making this soup in the morning before work, you can put soup and beans all together into the crock pot and cook on simmer for 6 -8 hours.
** Other additions: To the dutch oven soup, in the last eight minutes of cooking time, add 1 cup of uncooked small elbow macaroni or tubetini pasta. To the crock pot, add cooked pasta at the end of the cooking cycle. To make this soup a clam chowder, add a can of clams and a pinch of thyme. For barley soup, add ½ – 1 cup barley when you add the vegetables.