Happy February! I’m a few days late because my blog was getting a much-needed facelift and I had to hold off on publishing new posts while my web developers worked behind the scenes. I am thrilled with the changes and I hope you like them as much as I do! I can’t believe how quickly January went by, although I may be in the minority of people who feel that way. Last month, I saw many people complaining about how January seemed to drag–as though the month was like one long Monday. I know that feeling because I have felt that many times in past years. These recent years have been different since I made the choice to change my mindset about the month. As much as I love the holidays, they also wear me out, and by the time the end of December arrives, I enthusiastically welcome the clean slate of a new year.
Four years ago, when we moved into our new house, Peter and I both got sick with the flu…on Christmas day. Misery. But it was a blessing in disguise because while we were both convalescing on the couch together, shivering with fever, coughing our heads off, and generally feeling sorry for ourselves, I also took the time to re-evaluate my priorities and the areas of my life that needed simplifying. I made the decision right then and there to dedicate the entire month of January to extra self-care, lots of rest, thoughtful re-evaluation, and detailed goal-setting for the year ahead. This habit has made me more thoughtful about the commitments I take on, the people I spend time with, and the way I make decisions. This new mindset isn’t limited only to January–I carry it into the rest of the year to make sure my priorities stay in check and my life remains simplified.
January is the month I stay home more than usual. You’ve heard of “No Sugar January”? For me, the month is “No Going Out Unless I Have To January”. I have been a homebody since I was a kid and I haven’t changed. I love being home. I usually do the same things every January: a deep clean of the house once the Christmas decorations are put away, a whole-house purge of items to donate, and a pantry clean-out which includes using ingredients nearing their “use by” date and a re-stocking of staple ingredients. The cooking I do in January is also reflective of my emphasis on self-care, comfort, and simplicity, and Marcella Hazan’s minestrone soup is the perfect example. It has become a kitchen tradition of mine to make minestrone every January when the weather here in Houston is at its coldest and a hearty bowl of soup is just what I crave for dinner.
In Italian, this soup is known as minestrone alla Romagnola meaning “in the style of Emilia-Romagna”, known among Italians as one of the best regions to eat. The cuisine of Emilia-Romagna is rich and flavorful, characterized by a long cooking process or production method to coax out ingredients’ best flavors and textures. The recipe for this traditional Italian vegetable soup comes from the late Marcella Hazan’s cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, one of the first Italian cookbooks I bought and the cookbook I used to learn how to make this soup years ago. Marcella was from the seaside town of Cesenatico on Emilia-Romagna’s Adriatic coast. Originally trained as a biology teacher, Marcella learned to cook purely out of necessity to feed herself and her husband, Victor, once they were married and living in America. She learned principally from Ada Boni’s Il Talismano della Felicità and from the memory of meals she ate in her youth. From there, Marcella’s career in cooking took off, and she not only became an expert in the cooking of her home region of Emilia-Romagna, but of Italy’s nineteen other regions, and this expertise is reflected throughout her cookbooks.
True to the style of many of Emilia-Romagna’s recipes, Marcella Hazan’s minestrone soup takes three hours to cook and develop its deep, rich flavor. The long cooking process also gives the vegetables a tender, silky texture where they almost melt into the soup and mingle together. Although there is a fair amount of prep and chopping on the front end–a kitchen task I enjoy–there is nothing complicated about making minestrone soup. Once all the ingredients have made it into the pot, the rest of the cooking process is mostly hands-off as the soup simmers gently on the stove. Recently, I also tried making this recipe in my Instant Pot with great success and in half the time. I’ve included both methods in the recipe below. I’m not sure what Marcella would have to say about using an electric pressure cooker to make a traditional minestrone, (no doubt she would definitely have something to say!), but judging from the delicious results, I hope she would approve.Print
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
- ½ cup (125 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons (40 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (132 grams) diced yellow onion
- 1 cup (130 grams) diced carrot
- 1 cup (122 grams) diced celery
- 2 cups (307 grams) peeled, diced potato
- ¼ pound (115 grams) fresh (or frozen) green beans, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
- 1 pound (453 grams) zucchini, trimmed and diced
- 3 cups (260 grams) shredded cabbage
- 4 cups (946 mL) chicken stock or vegetable broth
- 2 cups (473 mL) cold water
- ⅔ cup (170 grams) canned diced tomatoes with their juice
- 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste if necessary
- 1 15-ounce (425 grams) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
- 1 cup (116 grams) ditalini pasta, cooked to al dente (optional)
- Place a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add in the olive oil and butter. Once the butter has melted, add in the onion and cook it until it softens and is pale golden.
- Add in the carrot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the potatoes following the same method.
- Next, add in the green beans and after they have cooked for 2 to 3 minutes, add in the zucchini and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking the vegetables for an additional 1-2 minutes, and then add in the shredded cabbage, cooking for 5-6 minutes, stirring often until it is wilted. Adjust the heat as necessary to prevent the vegetables from scorching and sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Pour in the chicken stock (or vegetable broth) and water, and add in the diced tomatoes, Parmigiano rind (if using), and salt and stir well to combine. Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low so that the soup simmers gently. Stir the soup occasionally for the next 2 ½ hours, adjusting the heat as necessary to keep the soup at a steady, gentle simmer.
- After the soup has cooked for 2 ½ hours, add in the cannellini beans and then cook partially covered for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The soup should have a fairly dense consistency but not be absent of liquid. If it looks too dense (like a stew), add in a little bit of water to dilute the soup.
- Once the soup is finished cooking, remove the Parmigiano rind, taste the soup for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve hot.
- Turn the sauté function on to HIGH. Add the olive oil and butter to the insert. Once the butter is melted, follow the exact same procedure for adding the vegetables as the stove top method ending with the addition of the chicken stock (or vegetable broth), diced tomatoes, Parmigiano rind, and salt. Make sure that the liquid level does not go past the ⅔ MAX mark on the insert.
- Close and lock the lid into place, and turn the pressure valve to sealing. Select pressure cook and press the button repeatedly until Normal is highlighted on the display. Press the pressure level button until High is highlighted. Using the + and – buttons, set the cooking time to 1 hour.
- Once you hear a beep, the Instant Pot has started preheating. The cooking time will start counting down once the Instant Pot has come to full pressure (the stainless steel float valve will be completely raised), and you will hear a beep and see the cooking time counting down on the LCD display.
- At the end of the cooking time, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes, then release the pressure manually. Add in the cannellini beans and stir to incorporate them into the soup. Remove the Parmigiano rind, taste the soup for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve hot.
- Add a portion of the cooked ditalini pasta to each soup bowl and then ladle the minestrone over the pasta. Do not add the cooked pasta to the entire pot of soup. Cooked pasta will get soggy in any leftover soup. It is best to cook only the amount of pasta you want to eat and combine it with the minestrone in individual soup bowls at the time of serving.
- Storage: Allow the minestrone to cool to room temperature and store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months in a tightly sealed, freezer-safe container.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Omit the ditalini pasta, or substitute gluten-free pasta (a small shape).
- Make it Vegan: Omit the butter and use 3 tablespoons more olive oil. Omit the Parmigiano rind and shredded Parmigiano cheese. Use vegetable broth.