For a casual supper, serve this minestrone soup with crusty bread and a green salad. Save the rinds from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freeze them and put a square in the soup pot. It will add richness and complexity to the broth. For more flavor, you can also use a light vegetable broth in place of the water.
For the beans:
- 1 cup dried cannellini beans
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup diced fresh or canned tomatoes with their juices
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 large fresh sage leaves
- 2-inch piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (optional)
- 2 cups packed shredded kale or chard
- 1 cup tubettini or other small dried pasta shape
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish
To cook the beans, pick them over, discarding any that are wrinkled, along with any grit. Place in a bowl, add cold water to cover by 4 inches and soak overnight. Drain the beans, rinse well and transfer to a saucepan. Add the garlic and water to cover by 4 inches. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the salt and water if needed to keep the beans submerged, and continue to cook until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 30 to 90 minutes more, depending upon the beans. Remove from the heat and let the beans cool in their cooking liquid, then drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Set aside. You should have about 2 1/2 cups cooked beans.
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the 1 Tbs. olive oil and the garlic and sauté until the garlic is toasted and the oil is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the carrots, onion and celery and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften and brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, sage, cheese rind and enough water to cover the vegetables by 2 inches and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Add 2 cups of the cooked beans and the kale and continue to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Just before the soup is ready, bring a saucepan three-fourths full of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, stir well and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), according to the package instructions. Drain well and divide among warmed soup bowls. Ladle the soup over the pasta, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle generously with grated cheese and serve. Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Family Meals, by Maria Helm Sinskey (Oxmoor House, 2008).