My favorite Thanksgiving dishes aren’t the stuffing or the roasted bird. Instead, I prefer a couple of family food traditions. I shared my favorite pumpkin pie recipe with you (Casa Fiore, Oct.-Nov., 2005), made from denser, sweeter Hubbard squash. Now for two more Pignataro favorites. First, Dad’s minestrone, or literally, “big soup”. Lately, Dad’s made a vegetarian version; in the past, he made a beef stock from scratch (and omits the bouillon cubes) and builds from there. Like Dad, I use the recipe that follows as a general blueprint—there are always modifications in the field, like pancetta for salt pork, more olive oil and oregano or the addition of a flavorful rind of Parmigiano. So, think of me this Thanksgiving as you are deep into your tryptophan gaze—I’ll still be plugging away a this hearty, annual “big soup”.
1. In a large soup kettle, sauté 1/4 lb. minced pancetta and 3 minced cloves garlic in 2 tbsp. hot olive oil. Add the following diced veggies: 2 carrots, 1 large onion, 3 cups celery and cook over med. heat for minutes. Add one 6-oz. can tomato paste. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add 4 quarts water (or beef stock, either homemade or store-bought) and bring to a full boil for 5 minutes. Add seasonings: 3 tbsp. salt, pepper to taste, 1 tsp. oregano, 3 beef bouillon cubes. Mix well and add the following: 2 diced potatoes, 1/4 head chopped cabbage, 2 seeded diced green peppers. Cook 5 minutes.
3. Turn heat to med.-low. Add 2 diced zucchini and 1 bunch finely chopped spinach. Cook until all veggies are tender. Add 3/4 cup cooked pasta of your choice (1/3 cup uncooked), one 12-oz. can drained and chopped tomatoes, one 12-oz. can drained garbanzo beans, one 12-oz. can drained kidney beans. Heat through and serve.
Stay tuned for Part II: Joe’s Turkey Pot Pie!