This is not just another Minestrone recipe. What gives it that special zing is Parmesan — the rinds saved and kept just for this. I never throw them away, but wrap then tightly and store in the frig, saving them for this hearty and delicious soup. You can ad lib on the amounts of veggies. There is lots of chopping involved, and it’s best made a day ahead. Let it rest for flavor enhancement.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta (Italian unsmoked cured bacon) chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 medium boiling potatoes (about 1 pound)
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or a 28 oz. can plum tomatoes, drained, seeded and and chopped
1/2 pound Swiss chard, cut into one inch pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
rind from a 1-pound piece Parmigiano Reggiano or a cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (I use the rinds, usually several small pieces– the more, the better)
6 cups homemade beef or chicken broth, or 3 cups canned plus 3 cups water
3 cups cooked cannellini (white beans) — about two 19 oz. cans
2 cups thinly sliced Savoy cabbage
freshly ground black pepper.
In an 8-quart heavy kettle heat oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook pancetta, parsley, garlic and sage, stirring for 5 minutes. Add carrots, onions, celery and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.
Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Stir into kettle potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, Swiss chard, bell pepper, cheese rinds and broth. Simmer partially covered for 1 1/2 hours.
Stir into kettle beans, cabbage, pepper and salt to taste and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally 1 hour. Remove cheese rind or rinds (you can cut them into bit size pieces for eating, but I find the gummy texture unpleasant so I remove before serving) If you have not used rinds, add the grated cheese. Soup will be thick. Thin with water if desired. Makes about 10 1/2 cups.