This minestrone soup recipe features nutrient-dense great northern beans, cabbage, potatoes, flavorful aromatics, and the smoky flavor of bacon.
As you look down the list of ingredients for this recipe, you'll notice Parmesan rind. It's my secret ingredient, of sorts. If you are unfamiliar with Parmesan rind, you may wonder what it is and why put it in a soup.
Parmesan rind is the 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.
1 pound (same as 2 cups) dried great northern beans
5 slices bacon
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, rinsed, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, washed and sliced
1 small head green cabbage, rinsed, cored and chopped
1 russet potato, rinsed, peeled and cubed
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 cups chicken stock
5 cups water
1 ounce Parmesan rind
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cups frozen green beans
Parmesan cheese, grated for garnish
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 - Drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until softened.
8. Add - To the crockpot/slow cooker, add the sautéed onions and the remaining ingredients (carrots, celery, cabbage, potato, garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, basil, chicken stock, water, and Parmesan rind) except the crushed tomatoes and the frozen green beans.
9. Cook - Cook for 6-8 hours on LOW (or 2-3 hours on HIGH). Cook until the beans are tender.
10. Add - About 30 minutes before you are ready to eat, stir in the crushed tomatoes and the frozen green beans. Adding the tomatoes too early can prevent the dried beans from becoming tender.
12. Remove the Parmesan rind before serving.
13. Garnish - Garnish each serving with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. (Another option is to sprinkle the individual servings of soup with a little smoked sea salt just before eating.)
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/.