This minestrone soup recipe features nutrient-dense great northern beans, cabbage, potatoes, flavorful aromatics, and the smoky flavor of bacon.
A secret ingredient of sorts...
As you look down the list of ingredients for this recipe, you will notice Parmesan rind. If you are unfamiliar with Parmesan rind, you may wonder what it is and why put it in a soup.
Parmesan rind is an edible outer layer that forms as the wheel of cheese ages. And although these pieces you hold in your hand after grating may look unusable, they hold lots of flavor.
In fact, unaware of their hidden value, many cooks simply throw them away.
Read more about the blessed beginnings of Parmigiano-Reggiano below. Then relax in the beauty of nature drawing a sigh of pleasure...for all is well.
1 pound (same as 2 cups) dried great northern beans
5 slices bacon
2 carrots, rinsed, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, washed and chopped
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small head green cabbage, rinsed, cored and chopped
1 russet potato, rinsed, peeled and cubed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken stock, homemade preferred (chicken stock recipe)
8 cups water
1 ounce piece of Parmesan cheese rind
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1-1/2 cups vegetable juice
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated for garnish (or top with thin slices of mozzarella as in photo)
Smoked sea salt - optional
1. Sort and Rinse - Sort through beans, put in colander, and rinse with running water.
2. Salt Bath - In a large, heavy pot dissolve 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt in 8 cups of clean, cold water.
3. Add - Add rinsed beans to the salted water and bring to a boil over high heat.
4. Boil and Let Stand - Boil for two minutes then remove pot from heat and let stand covered for one hour.
5. Drain and Rinse - Pour contents into a colander and rinse beans under running water.
6. Cook until Crispy - Cook bacon in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. When bacon is crispy, lift it out with a meat fork or slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel to drain.
7. Add and Sauté - To 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings, add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté for 7 minutes, or until vegetables are lightly browned.
8. Add and Sauté -Add the cabbage, potato, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until the cabbage begins to wilt, about 12 minutes.
9. Remove vegetables from pot and place in a large baking dish.
10. Bring to a Boil -Place the soaked beans, water, stock, rosemary sprig, and Parmesan cheese rind in the pot; bring to a boil over high heat.
11. Reduce Heat to Vigorous Simmer - Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat to medium for a vigorous simmer. Stir occasionally.
12. Cook One Hour - Cook for one hour or until the beans are tender and the liquid has a rich, thick consistency.
13. Add and Cook 15 Minutes - Return sautéed vegetables to the stock pot and add vegetable juice. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until all of the vegetables are soft.
14. Discard the bare rosemary stem and the Parmesan rind.
15. Stir in and Season - Stir in the fresh basil and season to taste with salt and black pepper. (Another option would be to sprinkle each serving with a wonderful smoked sea salt just before serving.)
16. Garnish - Garnish each serving of this minestrone soup recipe with freshly grated Parmesan cheese or thin slices of mozzarella.
Although we may not know exactly who discovered cheese itself, legend credits the discovery to a nomad who was crossing the desert with a saddlebag filled with milk.
But what about Parmesan cheese? What circumstances led to its discovery?
This wonderful cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, was first made during the Middle Ages by Benedictine monks living in Italy.
The monks settled in a fertile valley near good sources of water. And there they cared for large herds of dairy cattle and cultivated clover and alfalfa. This special diet was one of the factors that influenced the milk and helped give the cheese its unique flavor.
But there was more. The discovery was also made possible because the monks heated the milk in large vats, not just in small batches as individual farmers would have done.
And they perfected their production of Parmesan by developing sophisticated techniques using science and dedicated observation.
Many factors came together to make the discovery of Parmesan cheese possible:
Let the taste of Parmesan in this minestrone soup recipe take your mind on an imaginary journey to the past.
Like a tenderly written love letter, reach out to those dear to your heart with one of these delicious soups...
Jahncke, Elizabeth. "Parmigiano-Reggiano: The "King" of Cheeses." The Trade and Environment Database. Accessed September 27, 2016. http://www1.american.edu/ted/parmesan.htm.
Leavenworth, Stuart. "If You Grate the Cheese, Be Grateful for the Rind | KQED Food." Bay Area Bites. Accessed September 27, 2016. https://ww2.kqed.org/bayareabites/2009/07/28/if-you-grate-the-cheese-be-grateful-for-the-rind/.