Hearty Minestrone with Red Wine
The word minestrone, roughly translated from Italian, means "the big soup." It is generally a hearty soup, made with a variety of seasonal vegetables, meat if desired and occasionally pasta or rice. This is our version, made with a generous portion of dry red wine for extra flavor. The soup can be a meal in itself, but we like to serve it along with our Roasted Garlic Knots and Italian Salad with Basil Dressing.
- 2 cans (15-ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 lb pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1-1/2 pound Italian sausage, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 1-1/2 cups dry red wine
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- 1 can (15-ounce) diced tomatoes, with their juices
- 2 zucchini, cut into bite-sized cubes
- 4 cups Savoy (or green) cabbage, chopped
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (optional)
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Grated parmesan or romano cheese for serving
Drain the cannellini beans in a colander and rinse them lightly. Place all but 1/2 cup in the work bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside both the puree and the reserved beans.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed 7-quart covered pan. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally until the fat has rendered and it begins to brown. Add the onion, carrots and celery and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft and beginning to turn golden brown. Add the oregano and crushed red pepper. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the sausage pieces and cook, stirring frequently until they begin to brown slightly on the outside. Stir in the red wine, scraping up any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the heat to low and stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes and cannellini puree and whole beans. Combine well, then add the zucchini and cabbage. Cover and cook on a low simmer for about 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
If the soup needs a little thickening, stir in 1/4 cup of the breadcrumbs. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, check the thickness and add up to 1/4 cup additional breadcrumbs if desired. At this point, the soup can stay on a very low heat to keep warm until ready to serve. About 10 minutes before serving, stir in the parsley.
Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls and top with grated cheese.
Makes about 5-1/2 quarts
Rinsing the cannellini beans reduces some of the excess sodium they contain, but you still need to be a bit conservative with additional salt. Add salt in small increments and taste frequently as flavors continue to develop. If you prefer a non-alcoholic version of this recipe, simply substitute 1-1/4 cups of additional chicken broth plus 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar for the wine.
Use kitchen shears for cutting the uncooked sausage into slices - it's much easier and quicker than a cutting board!