Sharing a bowl of hearty soup with friends makes for a convivial, low-stress supper at this busy time of year.
Soup is the ultimate comfort food and one of the foundations of Italian cooking. Minestrone literally big soup is easy to make and eminently adaptable. It gladly accepts just about any ingredient you care to toss in and delivers a satisfying meal in a bowl.
Styles of minestrone vary throughout Italy. Some have a thick texture thanks to pureed beans and long-cooked vegetables, while others have a more broth-based consistency with lightly cooked vegetables or meats added toward the end.
Though delectable as written, the minestrone recipe here is easily adapted to whatever is on hand. No potatoes? Try sweet potatoes, turnips or squash. Kidney, navy or garbanzo beans can replace the cannellini beans. The rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano (never throw one away) gives the soup body and infuses it with a salty, nutty flavor.
Add small pasta to the soup during the last 5 minutes, or try the rice variation given. Slice a loaf of crusty bread, open a bottle of chianti, and Sunday supper is served.
Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-author of Mmmmiami: Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.