Sunday Supper

Hearty Italian soup makes for convivial, low-stress meal




To make Minestrone With Rice, bring 3 cups soup and 3 cups water to a boil. Stir in 3/4 cup arborio or other Italian rice, and cook until al dente, about 15 minutes. Ten minutes into cooking, add a dozen coarsely shredded fresh basil leaves. Serve at room temperature, drizzling each of the 4 portions with 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil.

1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

2 celery ribs, diced

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

8 ounces cabbage (preferably Savoy)

4 ounces green beans

12 ounces boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)

12 ounces zucchini

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or beef broth

Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)

1 1/2 cups canned, drained cannellini beans

Place onion, carrots, celery, olive oil and butter in a 6-quart soup pot over medium-high heat. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion turns golden and carrots and celery just begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely shred cabbage. Trim ends of green beans and dice them. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch dice. Trim ends of the zucchini and cut into 1/2 inch dice.

Add cabbage to sautéed vegetables, season lightly with salt and cook until cabbage wilts, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, potatoes, and zucchini. Add broth, 4 cups water and cheese rind. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, 2 1/2 hours.

Add cannellini beans and cook 20 minutes more. Makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from “Hazan Family Favorites” by Giuliano Hazan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95).

Per serving: 422 calories (38 percent from fat), 18 g fat (5 g saturated fat, 9 g monounsaturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 22 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 11 g fiber, 1,800 mg sodium.

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.”

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