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We returned home from our Christmas travels to a world of….brown. This is our 4th winter in Utah and it is the first time we have gone into the new year with no snow cover on the ground. Generally we return from two weeks away to a world blanketed in white and Andy has to spend the first day shoveling 8-10 inches of snow off of our driveway and front steps. The one year we did stay home I experienced my first white Christmas ever! This year? Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. No significant snowfall at all and if weather reports are to be believed there is none to come in the foreseeable future. Our mountains look like they normally do in June!

I know people grumble about snow, but really….If it is going to be 28 degrees outside at mid-afternoon, the world may as well be pretty and sparkling in the sunshine and I should have the option of sledding on the hill across the street from our house with our kids. Maybe it’s still a relatively novel experience for me but I do love snow. And so…in hopes of coaxing some into our area I chose to make soup yesterday.

This Minestrone soup is a family favorite. It is modified from a Tyler Florence recipe. The first time I made this soup I went shopping for the ingredients and was absolutely positive I had cannelloni beans in my pantry. That was the one ingredient I knew I didn’t need. You can guess what happened next. I got home only to realize I did NOT have cannelloni beans on hand. I needed something else to add to the soup so I threw in a few handfuls of baby spinach and allowed them to wilt. It was delicious! Andy liked it so much that I  now make it this way every time. Cannelloni beans aren’t his favorite anyhow so it worked out well. Feel free to add the beans though if it makes you happy!

I made a few other changes, all of which are already reflected in the recipe as I have it here for you.  I hope you enjoy and may it bring to you whatever winter weather you are wishing for where you live!

Hunter’s Minestrone

Makes about 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound small rigatoni (or whatever pasta you like)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 pound loose sweet Italian pork sausage
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed plum tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves, finely minced
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Grated Pecorino Romano (optional)

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the rigatoni.

Pour 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the sage, rosemary and thyme and warm the oil over medium heat to infuse it with the flavor of the herbs, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the sausage with the side of a big spoon until well browned. Towards the end of cooking the sausage, add the minced garlic and allow to cook for one minute more. Chop the carrots, celery, and onion in a food processor until almost a paste.  Add to the saucepan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.

To the pan with the sausage stir in the crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and chicken stock. If using cannelloni beans, add now.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

This picture is pre-chicken stock.

Cook the rigatoni in the boiling water for 6 minutes; it should be slightly underdone. Drain and stir into the simmering soup. Add the parsley, and salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste. Discard the bay leaf and herb sprigs.

To serve, place a handful of spinach leaves in the bottom of soup bowls. Ladle the soup into bowls and let sit for 1-2 minutes to allow spinach to wilt. Stir and top with grated Pecorino Romano.Mmmmm…snow or no snow, this is good soup! I would have liked to have taken more pictures or perhaps staged them better…but I was HUNGRY! :)

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