Temperatures may be plummeting in many cities worldwide, but cooking up this hearty, comforting minestrone will warm up any household.
One of our favorites for the winter months…it comes by way of the Williams Sonoma ‘Soup’ Cookbook. It’s easy and tastes better every day that passes.
3 qt chicken stock or prepared broth
2 skinless, boneless whole chicken breasts
4 carrots peeled
2 large zucchini
1/2 lb. green beans
1 small Asian eggplant
2 yellow onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small head green cabbage, shredded (We substituted Kale but cabbage is also delicious)
1/4 lb fresh white button mushrooms thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic
2 tomatoes, peeled and seeded then finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
Piece of Parmesan cheese rind
1/4 cup orzo
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper
1/2 cup basil pesto (store bought or homemade—recipe to follow)
In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring 6 cups of the stock to a simmer. Add the chicken breasts and simmer until just tender and no trace of pink remains, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the chicken cool in the liquid. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut into 1-inch cubes. Set aside. Strain and reserve the stock.
Cut the carrots, zucchini, green beans and eggplant into 1-inch pieces and finely chop the onions. In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the cabbage and sauté it just until it is softened about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, the reserved stock plus the remaining 6 cups of stock, the basil, and the Parmesan rind. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 more minutes.
Add the orzo and cannellini beans and cook until the orzo is al dente about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the chicken and heat through. Remove and discard the Parmesan rind. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and swirl a tablespoon of pesto into each bowl. Serve immediately.
Note: Adding the rind from a wedge of Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano or grana cheese, to the simmering soup gives it a unique, nutty, sweet flavor.
In a food processor, combine 2 minced cloves of garlic, 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves and 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley. Process until finely chopped. Add 2 tablespoons pine nuts and process until finely chopped. With the motor running slowly pour in 1/2 cup olive oil. Process until thick. Add 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and pepper to taste and process to mix. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.