|Real minestrone, with pancetta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and kale, is
one of the best vegetable soups on the
planet. The secret is the kale, which grounds the soup and gives it
a sturdy underpinning. If you omit it, you
will have a perfectly nice vegetable soup, but it won't be minestrone.
Note thatthere's no need to add pasta to
stretch the soup.
We're particularly partial to the lacinato variety of kale (see
Glossary). Be aware that lacinato has more aliases
than a gangster on the lam. It can be called Tuscan kale, cavolo
nero ('black cabbage'), black kale, or dinosaur
kale. Its flavor is as deep as the color of its green-black leaves,
with a sweetness reminiscent of artichokes.
1/2 pound (1 1/4 cups) dried white beans, such as great northern,
picked over and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound boiling potatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta or lean bacon (4 slices), chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 zucchini (1 pound total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 pound green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups shredded green cabbage, preferably savoy (3/4 pound)
1/2 pound kale, stems and tough center ribs discarded and leaves
chopped (6 cups)
1 (28- to 32-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained well and
4 1/2 cups (36 ounces) chicken stock or store-bought lowsodium broth
Freshly ground black pepper
accompaniment : 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2
Soak beans in cold water to cover by 2 inches, refrigerated, for
at least 8 hours (or see page 267 for
quick-soaking procedure); drain.
Transfer beans to a 3-quart heavy saucepan, add cold water to cover
by 2 inches, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, adding more water if necessary
to keep beans barely covered, until
ten minutes. Add salt and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove from
heat and let beans stand, uncovered.
Peel potatoes and cut into I-inch dice; put in a bowl of cold water.
Heat oil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat. Add pancetta
and cook, stirring, until crisp and
pale golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring, until
softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add carrot, celery,
and garlic and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Drain potatoes well,
add to pot, along with zucchini and green
beans, and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add cabbage and kale and
cook, stirring, until cabbage is wilted,
about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a simmer. Cover,
reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.
Drain beans, reserving liquid. Puree half of beans with 1 cup reserved
liquid in a blender or food processor
(use caution). Stir into soup, along with remaining drained beans
and reserved liquid. Simmer soup, uncovered,
for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve soup with cheese.
c o o k ' s n o t e
The soup can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool completely, uncovered,
then refrigerate, covered. Thin
with water, if desired, when reheating.