soup’s on!

Happy President’s Day!  I hope everyone’s been enjoying the long weekend as much as I have…  Free time is something I – like most people – truly cherish.  It gives you the opportunity to “catch up” on all of the things that you want to do (or do more of), but never seem to find as much time for as you would like – work around the house, a longer workout, grocery shopping, seeing family and friends, etc…  Joe and I have been able to do a little of each this weekend and it’s been extraordinarily gratifying.  Can we arrange for the 8-day week?  I swear if I had one more day, I’d be able to accomplish everything I always hope to…

Anyhow, I’ve also been able to spend some extra time in the kitchen – undoubtedly my greatest stress reliever and outlet – during this long weekend and try some recipes that have been piling up:  seared saffron sea scallops, Heidi Swanson’s whole wheat chocolate chip skillet cookie (with walnuts- yum), fried parmesan polenta, and today’s featured recipe, my Aunt Gracie’s minestrone soup.  I usually make a pot of soup on the weekend and we eat it all week at work for lunch with a side salad.  However, my staple soups had been in heavy rotation and I’d been itching to try something new when the full-bodied and flavorsome soup my aunt brought on Thanksgiving came to mind.  At first slurp, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made this meatless cream-less soup so thick and luxurious, but I knew I would have to find out.  My Aunt Gracie kindly shared her recipe with me and I in turn am happy to share it with you.  Apparently, it’s cup upon cup of freshly grated green and yellow squash that meld into the broth, along with Pecorino Romano cheese and a healthy dollop of extra virgin olive oil that make this heartwarming bowl satisfying enough to be a main course.  Enjoy!

Aunt Gracie’s Minestrone
Serves 10

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 large or 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thin
4 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, chopped very fine
4 yellow zucchini, grated in food processor
4 green zucchini, grated in food processor
1 lb. carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 10 oz. can of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
4 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped fine
2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock
2 1/2 cups cold water
3 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes
8 oz. small dried pasta
1 lb. or less of prewashed baby spinach
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Kosher salt

Heat 1/3 cup of olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat.  Add pepper, rosemary, and leeks and saute lightly until they are wilted, about 4 minutes (do not brown).  Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, carrots, and celery and cook for 4 minutes.  Add all of the grated squash, 1 teaspoon of salt, and raise the heat to medium high.  The squash will begin to shrink down and water will come out of it.  Cook about 10 minutes until some of the water is gone.  Add stock, water, bouillon cubes, beans, and parsley and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 20 minutes.  Smash some of the beans against the side of the pot if you like a thicker broth.  Add raw pasta, cover, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente.  Stir in baby spinach and simmer until wilted, about 2-minutes.  Shut off the heat, add grated cheese, and drizzle remaining 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil into the pot.  Stir well, taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Serve immediately.  Garnish bowls with more cheese, if desired.

A few notes:

  • Add salt in stages.  I gave you the amounts I used, but as always, it will vary based upon the amount of salt in the ingredients and your taste preferences.  There is salt in the cheese, stock, and bouillon cubes, so use sparingly.  The key in this dish and any other is building up the salt gradually at each level.  You can always add more at the end, but you can’t take it out.
  • I made a mistake and only used 1 bouillon cube.  Guess what?  It was still delicious…
  • Do not be overwhelmed (as I was) by the mammoth amount of grated squash when you add it to the pot.  I was extremely intimidated and began to wonder how this amount of vegetables could possibly turn into a soup, but it did.  It absolutely will cook down.  Just be sure to use your largest pot, so you have room.
  • This is the kind of dish that gets even better the next day after the flavors meld.  The longer all of the ingredients have to interlace with each other, the more harmonious the soup becomes.
  • I used De Cecco’s farfalline (those pretty little bows in the picture), but any small pasta will work.

3 Responses to “soup’s on!”

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  1. Alison says:

    This recipe is amazing! It’s by FAR the best soup recipe I’ve made at home. Makes me want to give your Aunt Gracie a big hug for sharing!

    • KarmaCucina says:

      I passed your kind words on to my aunt and she was thrilled! This soup really is lovely – so nutritious, hearty, and filling… Thanks for stopping by!


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