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Soup for the Fall: Minestrone

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    Soup for the Fall: Minestrone

    Working on another soup recipe :-) .... This one is minestrone. I have eaten this soup off and on through the years and NEVER liked it. But it is a much loved soup. And it involves beans. So, I should like it. I was talking about soups with my wife the other day and I’m came to the conclusion that all the minestrone I had ever had was thin, watery, and bland.

    Now, that just doesn’t seem like something an Italian grandma would actually make in her kitchen. So, I started researching and investigating and here we go. This is the first run at it, so obviously will need some work and tuning.

    Some of the things that I recognized needed to be changed from the minestrone I’ve experienced

    Beans - Canned kidney beans. No, no .... replace those with Cannellini that you cook yourself
    Veggies - there should be LOTS of veggies in the soup. It should be hearty
    Base - Make your own beef stock. The stock you buy in the store is not particularly flavorful or robust
    Secret ingredient I discovered - traditional Italian minestrone includes a rind or two from Parmesan wedges
    Order of cooking - the order you cook in and when the ingredients are added to the pot are very important. Otherwise you end up with soft, squishy veggies, undercooked beans and pasta, etc
    Cutting the ingredients - The veggies, pasta, and beans should all be just about the same size. As should any diced ham, beef, or other meats added to the soup. This gives a consistent mouth feel AND no one ingredient overpowers another.

    So, here goes ..... I’ll share pics and stuff of this soup and then do a detailed review at the end. Probably tomorrow. Meanwhile, below is my plan

    Steps to this cook
    1. Beans
    2. Soup base
    3. Pasta, potatoes, and beans
    4. Veggies
    5. Finish and serve
    Ingredients - this amount will serve 8, I think

    8 oz dry Cannelli beans (I use Rancho Gordo’s Marcella beans)
    3 cups chicken stock (for cooking beans)
    1/2 cup beer - a lager of some sort
    1 cup white wine - not too expensive, something from Italy like a Pinot Grigio
    8 cups beef stock (for soup)
    4 slices bacon, separated in two
    1 medium onion, chopped - 1/3 for the beans, 2/3 for the soup
    5 garlic cloves, minced/crushed - 2 for the beans, 3 for the soup
    1 leek, white portion only, chopped
    2 bay leaves, crumbled
    2/3 cup chopped carrot
    2/3 cup chopped celery
    1 1/2 cups chopped red potatoes
    2/3 cup frozen peas
    4 oz dry pasta - a smaller macaroni style is best
    1 can diced tomatoes
    2 rinds from parmesan wedges
    1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan (don’t wimp out and get not fresh)

    Optional: some sort of meat .... browned hamburger, diced ham, left over steak, diced .... whatever is handy and works for you. Probably want about a cup worth

    Beans method - you may recognize this from every other time I talk about cooking beans :-)

    First, remember that if you are cooking Rancho Gordo beans there is no need to pre-soak, etc. If not, then follow your normal bean prep up to the point of cooking, then cook as I describe.
    • cut 2 slices of bacon up into chunks, brown in a medium sauce pan and then slowly cook until most of the fat is rendered.
    • Reserve the bacon, chop into small pieces, you will add it to the soup
    • Cook 1/3 cup onion in the bacon fat until translucent, about 10 minutes
    • Add garlic, cook til aromatic, about 1 minute
    • Add crumbled bay leaves, cook another minute
    • deglaze saucepan with the lager
    • add the beans and cover with stock by about 1”
    • Bring to a boil for 5 minutes
    • Reduce heat, add a lid, cracked open slightly, manage to a very low simmer. Basically 1-2 bubbles every minute, no more
    • Cook until ALMOST done .... we want to pull these beans about 30 minutes prior to being done because they are going in the soup and will cook more there
    • Almost done means they still have a bite and are a bit grainy when you chew it.

    Now reserve the beans in the fridge to stop their cooking. You can separate from the broth and save that for a stew or soup, or you can add it to your soup. As you prefer.

    Soup base method - this happens in stages so that everything ends up with a consistent level of done and texture
    • Add remaining two slices of bacon to a soup pot, cook until rendered well and brown, but not crispy
    • Reserve the bacon, chop up, add to the other bacon from the beans
    • Cook 2/3 of onion, carrots, celery, leek in bacon fat until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes
    • Add garlic, cook until aromatic, about 1 minute
    • Add cup of wine, deglaze the pot
    • Add tomatoes, beef stock and cheese rinds
    • Cook at a simmer, lid partially open, for about 15 minutes until you have a hearty beef soup

    Potatoes, etc - creating the hearty soup
    • Add potatoes, beans, pasta now
    • If you will have meat in it, add that now too
    • Add the chopped bacon
    • Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer and cook for about 15 minutes
    • Check that pasta is done, beans are near done
    • If they aren’t, go another 5 minutes, or so

    Finishing the soup
    • Add the peas and about a cup of Parmesan cheese
    • If you are doing other veggies, like zucchini or eggplant, this is the time to add them. Don’t do it earlier and end up with soft, blah stuff.
    • Cook at a simmer for another 5-7 minutes
    • Cheese should be melting and the peas should be heated through

    Serve with crusty bread, a Chianti, and some Parmesan on top

    Right now I’ve got everything prepped and ready and I’m cooking the beans :-)

    Rancho Gordo Marcella beans ... YUM!
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    Some home made chicken stock .... I freeze it in quart bags to make life easy
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    Bay leaves
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    Most of the soup ingredients .... beef stock is in the fridge
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    Beans, simmering slowly
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    Last edited by ecowper; October 17, 2020, 04:53 PM.

    A couple notes about seasonings .... I never add salt to my soups and stews until I am tasting/testing at the end. The reason is that my stocks, bacon, meats I’ve cooked, etc all have salt. I find that, typically, I don’t need salt, so I wait until near the end of cooking to test/add if needed.

    Beans - Never salt beans until the very end. Salt during the cooking process, in my experience, leads to a mushy bean.

    When I say have the lid cracked just slightly, this is what I mean .... balance that with the burner setting to get a very slow simmer

    Click image for larger version

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      Great write up. Gonna give it a shot in the next couple of weeks


      • ecowper
        ecowper commented
        Editing a comment
        I’ll have a final write up and review, along with changes, etc that I think are needed. This is first time, so I expect that there will be tuning, etc.

      Okay, built the soup base. Rendered the bacon, sautee’d the various veggies, deglazed, add the stock, tomatoes, bacon ... I used the beef that came off the bones when I made beef stock the other day as the meat in the soup. Brought that to a boil, now back down to a simmer for a bit.

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        Thank you for this! Love that you're giving us the play-by-play on your soup. This is the first thread that I've ever officially "followed".


        • ecowper
          ecowper commented
          Editing a comment
          That’s quite the compliment, thank you!

        Next stage .... potatoes and pasta .... I decided to wait a bit on the beans because they were a bit more cooked than I expected and I don’t want them mushy. Will add them about 5 minutes before I add the peas and parmesan.

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          Almost done .... beans, peas, parmesan are all in the soup now. My pot is really damn full, too! This is a 6 quart pot, probably should have used the 8 quart pot.

          The kitchen smells wonderful, the soup is tasting great. We have a bottle of Barbera open to drink with it and a loaf of crusty rosemary and olive oil bread!

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            Okay, all done, all eaten .... really good first time. Going to adjust as we go with some lessons, though
            • Use a bigger stock pot. I used the 6 quart baby pot, but should have gone up to the 8 quart pot.
            • Don’t forget to check for taste and salt after the potatoes cook. It was good until then. Probably need some salt when you put the potatoes in.
            • Check on the parmesan rinds. One of them didn’t completely melt.
            • Other vegetables would be great in here, like green beans or zucchini
            • Could do fresh tomatoes instead of canned
            Thoughts on this .... Okay, Minestrone soup made this way is really good. It’s not that thin broth with soggy veggies in it that I’ve had in the past. If you already have beans made, then it’s really only an hour long process to create this soup. You could use canned Cannellini and it would be fine. I’m just a snob about beans. I would never do kidney beans in this soups. Then again, I don’t really like kidney beans.

            This counts as BBQ. Some of the short rib bones that went into the beef stock were cooked on the WSM!

            And here’s some of the results

            Finished product
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            Finished product on the table .... a little bread, a little wine, a lotta soup
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            And the bowls are empty! How’d that happen?
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            Dunkin wonders: I can haz some soup too Dad?
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            Yesterday I made 12 quarts of beef stock, today I made 6 quarts of Minestrone soup ... sitting on the stove, cooling down
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            Last edited by ecowper; October 17, 2020, 08:40 PM.


              Great write up and agree 100% Minestrone has to be hearty with lots of veggies.
              I prefer it without meat but do like diced ham in the mix.
              Peas are a no no.
              Even in the best restaurants up here its hard to get a decent Minestrone, tomato broth with a coupla beanz, few carrot/celery slices and something that resemble onion....3 or 4 noodles of some kind....ugh!


              • ecowper
                ecowper commented
                Editing a comment
                I hate to break it to you, but diced ham is meat :-)

              When I was 18 I waited tables in the Sea Foam Room at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. The Chef, Sergio, was from Italy and Minestrone was on the menu every day and night. It was delicious, and I've never had any since that came close. Chef Sergio always kept the pasta separate and the wait staff added it to the soup to order so it wouldn't get overcooked.

              Great write-up E, thanks!


              • ecowper
                ecowper commented
                Editing a comment
                Yeah, overcooked pasta not good. Interesting trick I will keep in mind for next time.

              Nice writeup, Eric. I always enjoy reading through your cooking projects, ecowper

              I've never been a minestrone fan either, but am of late enchanted by the idea of ribollita, which is basically minestrone made similarly as you have with artisinal Tuscan bread added for thickener, making it a bit more stewy. I prefer stewy soups to brothy soups.

              I've singled out this article from Food and Wine to give a try, mostly because I like the story of the well-known NYC chef who makes ribollita soup his signature dish. The only thing holding me back is that ribollita traditionally contains kale, not a fav. I plan on substituting baby spinach. The weird thing about this recipe is that the San Marzano tomatoes are shown twice in the ingredient list, which I'm assuming is a big fat typo.

              Apparently ribollita means "twice boiled" (Italian heritage folks, correct me here if I'm off base) which means the ribollita is meant to be eaten the second day.

              All of this is to say thank you for taking us on your minestrone journey. It's a good place for me to start as I veer off down the ribollita side road. Who ever sticks religiously to a recipe anyway? Certainly not me.



              • ecowper
                ecowper commented
                Editing a comment
                I will tell you, this soup was not thin and brothy. That is the thing I always disliked about the minestrone soups I had in the past. This soup is hearty. Not quite stew like. It was hearty like a good beef barley soup would be. That secret ingredient, I think, makes all the difference.

              • ecowper
                ecowper commented
                Editing a comment
                Also, I added the cooking broth from the beans, which is a great thickener.

              That looks and sounds souper! I cut and pasted the entire process into my OneNote. Must do it this fall/winter.


              • ecowper
                ecowper commented
                Editing a comment
                It’s pretty awesome .... one thing I just learned from hoovarmin is that I will cook the pasta separately and add it to the bowls as I serve. I’m going to rewrite this in my recipes file (on Evernote) and then bring it back here as one single post :-)

              I too am not a fan of minestrone. No way, no how period. But you have me intrigued. I just might tire this. Like smokin fool I'll use green beans. Thanks for the journey.


              • ofelles
                ofelles commented
                Editing a comment
                pass on the zucchini also. Waiting on some cooler weather here. It's going to be 91F today.

              • ecowper
                ecowper commented
                Editing a comment
                it's in the 50's and raining. We've had snow on Mount Rainier and Crystal Mountain both. I think our fire season is over

              • ofelles
                ofelles commented
                Editing a comment
                Ya, the weather is being pushed up your way. We could use some down here, rain not the snow.

              Man, I love some minestrone. Got some rancho gordo too. Thanks a bunch, this will be on my stove sooner...


              • ecowper
                ecowper commented
                Editing a comment
                Awesome .... enjoy this big time!

              Nice writeup. The key thing here is to realize that store-bought beef stock actually had very little in the way of beef. If you use store-bought, use chicken stock which has much more in the way of chicken material. Obviously, making your own stock will be better. I'd also explore a little dark soy or Worcestershire and perhaps a dollop of fish sauce to pump up umami. Not a lot - 1-2 tablespoons to start.


              • ecowper
                ecowper commented
                Editing a comment
                Yeah, I think that’s one of the issues with most minestrone. The broth is just thin and bland. If you are using store bought stock I have a couple tips: 1. Buy Better than Bouillon, it’s much better and 2. Add some soy sauce as you note. Or simmer the stock with some mushrooms first.

              • hoovarmin
                hoovarmin commented
                Editing a comment
                The best beef stock I've ever made has been with short ribs. Eavesdropping on this beef stock conversation has me jonesing for some.

              • ecowper
                ecowper commented
                Editing a comment
                hoovarmin oxtail and short ribs are my favorites for beef stock :-)


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