WHITE BEAN MINESTRONE
Adapted from recipe by Martha Rose Shulman (perhaps my favorite chef...She also has a version with squash that I'll have to try some day.)
2 Tb. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 Tb. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 garlic cloves, put through garlic press, divided in halves
1 can (14 oz.) crushed tomatoes (If necessary, use diced, and then mince them.)
1 1/2 lb. (or one small head) green cabbage, cored and chopped fine
1/2 lb. (1 heaped cup) dried white beans, picked over, rinsed, soaked in water for 6 hours or overnight OR 1 can cannelini beans
8 cups water (Optional: Substitute some broth for water, especially if you’re not adding meat)
1 Parmesan rind (No parmesan rind is fine. But then be sure to serve with Parmesan on top if possible. It adds great flavor!)
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup elbow macaroni other small pasta
Sausage optional (I like to use a half dozen pre-cooked poultry sausages, chopped fine.)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and parsley. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is fragrant and tender, about 10 min.
Stir in half the minced garlic and cook, stirring, about a minute, until the garlic begins to smell fragrant.
Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes, until they have cooked down a bit.
Add cabbage, stir for a minute.
If using dried beans, add now.
Add water and bay leaf.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover partially and simmer 1 hour or until beans are just about tender. If using canned beans, add them around the 45 minute mark.
2. Add remaining garlic, cover, and simmer another 30 minutes to 1 hour, until beans are thoroughly cooked and the soup very fragrant. Add pepper and salt. Remove parmesan rind and bay leaf.
3. Add pasta (and meat, if you like). Cook about 5-10 minutes, until pasta is al dente and meat is done.
Advance Preparation: The soup can be made a day ahead through Step 2 and refrigerated. Bring back to a simmer and proceed with the recipe. It keeps for a few days in the refrigerator and freezes well.
Variation: The original recipe includes 4 to 6 thick slices toasted bread rubbed with an additional clove of garlic (cut in half first). These croutons are placed one in the bottom of each bowl, before ladling the soup.