Minestrone with Pesto

Forget the diner cliché; this hearty soup deserves respect!

Minestra is Italian for thick soup and minestrone is a large or rich minestra.

There is no rule for making minestrone. The only secret…fresh vegetables.

 

Cauliflower, turnips, carrots and other fresh vegetables may be used in place of or in addition to the ingredients called for.

Recipe:
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 lb. swiss chard
1/4 lb. spinach
2 small zucchini
2 medium white potatoes, peeled and diced
2 japanese eggplants, peeled and diced
2 cups tubetti pasta
2 cups cooked white beans
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Pesto:
2 tbsp. pine nuts
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. grated parmigianno-reggiano

  1. Soak mushrooms in 2 cups warm water until soft. Remove, rinse, chop and set aside. Pour mushroom water through a coffee filter and set aside. Wash chard and spinach. Trim and discard stalks from chard and stems from spinach. Chop leaves.
  2. Bring mushroom water and 6 cups salted water to boil in a large pot. Add mushrooms, chard, spinach, zucchini, potatoes, eggplant and olive oil. Return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 1 hour.
  3. For pesto, pulse pine nuts and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Add garlic and basil and drizzle in olive oil. Add parmiggiano-reggiano and process into a smooth paste.
  4. Add pasta to soup. Cook pasta for about 10 minutes; add beans and cook 5 minutes longer. Stir in 2 tbsp. pesto, reserving the rest for another use, and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with additional grated parmiggiano-reggiano.

 

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Anolini in Brodo

Anolini is a small and round stuffed pasta, sometimes with crimped edges. The pasta is typically 1 to 2 inches in diameter and may also be called tortelli.

This recipe is centuries old and comes from Italy’s gastronomic capital – Parma.

  • Beef, bones and vegetables are cooked very slowly in wine and stock for 8 to 10 hours (think overcooked pot roast). When the meat begins to fall apart push everything through a strainer, extracting as much juice as possible. Discard the meat since all its flavor is now in the cooking juices. Place the juice back into a small pot and boil for about 10 minutes. Allow the sauce to cool.
  • Combine the cooled sauce with toasted breadcrumbs, lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a touch of nutmeg. Taste for salt. Add a few eggs to bind, blend well and refrigerate. If you feel the urge to splurge, add some chopped black truffles to the mixture.
  • When you’re pasta dough is ready, dot the dough with a row of the filling and top with another sheet of dough.

  

  

Cut out the anolini shapes using a 1 to 2 inch round cutter and press all the air out. Spread them out on a baking sheet coated with flour and corn meal.

To serve:

Bring chicken stock to a boil, add the anolini and cook until tender. Cooking time will vary according to how dry your fresh pasta is. Ladle the pasta and broth into soup bowls and top with a generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

~

© Giovanni Cucullo 2010

Lentil with Beef Soup

As September allows us to bid farewell to summer and gives us time to jar what is left of the season, a cold and rainy October in NY demands food that is a bit more hearty.

We are into soup season!

I grew up eating lentils; they were a staple of my mother’s table, and being highly nutritious, lentils made and still make for wonderful, comforting soups.

Lentil Soup with Beef

  • Carrots, onions and garlic (you can add celery if you like)
  • Beef stew ( I used two fatty rib steaks and just cubed them)
  • Olive oil, chicken stock, water & herbs
  • Leftover rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Lentils

   
   

  1.  Heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Add the beef cubes and cook til nicely browned.
  2. Add the diced vegetables and stir. Cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the lentils and cover with chicken stock and some water. Season with salt and pepper. Add freshly chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary) and a piece of rind from leftover Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat, skim the fat after about 15 minutes and continue cooking until the lentils are tender and the soup has thickened.  Serve!

NB: Vegetarians can enjoy this soup by eliminating the beef and substituting vegetable broth for the chicken stock.

Golden Tomato Gazpacho

One of my favorite ways to say goodbye to summer is to make a refreshingly sweet and tart Golden Tomato Gazpacho. With very little effort you can dazzle your friends by letting the seasons final bounty strut its stuff.

Recipe:

  • 8 large yellow tomatoes
  • 2 large yellow peppers
  • 1 small yellow watermelon
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 3 cups sherry vinegar
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Cut all the vegetables and melon into a medium dice and toss with salt, pepper, sugar, lime juice and sherry vinegar.
  2. Refrigerate and let marinate for 2 – 4 hours.
  3. Puree the mixture using a blender or hand-held burr mixer.
  4. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve in chilled bowls.

                    

As you can see in the photo, I served the Gazpacho in shot glasses and topped it with a piece of jumbo lump crab meat, micro arugula and finished it with extra virgin olive oil.

~

© Giovanni Cucullo 2010

Miso Soup

September always brings a touch of Fall weather as well as a reminder to break out some soup recipes. Miso Soup is one of my favorites; perfect all year and very easy to make.

Recipe:

2 – 4 tablespoons miso paste (to taste)
2 – 3 ounces firm tofu (2 handfuls), cut into 1/3-inch cubes
a handful of spinach, well washed and stems trimmed
2 scallions, tops removed thinly sliced
a pinch of red pepper flakes

In a medium sauce pan bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Whisk in the miso paste, adding more a bit at a time until it is to your liking. Also, some miso pastes are less-salty than others, so you may need to add a bit of salt here. The darker the miso, the saltier it is. Add the tofu, remove from the heat, and let it sit for just a minute or so.

Place some spinach, scallions, chile flakes and black sesame seeds into soup bowls. Pour the miso soup and tofu into the bowls and enjoy.

As you can see, the miso paste really does all the work for you; that’s where the flavor is; which allows you to time to get creative with the ingredients.

Here are some ideas:

  • Use whatever vegetables you like, making certain to give them each their proper cooking time.
  • Add soba or udon noodles to the soup.
  • Add bonito flakes to the water at the beginning, then strain before adding the miso paste.
  • Add seaweed.
  • Add shellfish.