With this cooler weather making its presence known, I’m sorry I didn’t get this post, Chicken Minestrone alla All Our Way, out to you sooner. All the way home from our latest fishing trip, I thought and planned about making this soup with our area’s seasonal vegetables. I wanted to share my mamma’s method of making minestrone with you. You see, there are about as many variations of this minestra as there are cooks in Italy. Minestrone just means thick soup. Since it was a thirteen-hour trip home, I came up with a lot of ideas on how to present this to you.
Yard work before soup
Unfortunately, once we drove up to our house, I realized that this post had to wait. Our yard was blanketed in leaves — lots and lots of leaves. Our community isn’t nicknamed tree town for nothing. Frankly, I believe our trees were some of the first planted here. They are humongous, and they love to make their presence know by dropping twigs, limbs, leaves and anything else they decide to discard.
It’s a never ending job keeping up with the debris. But don’t think I’m whining about the leaves and debris, oh no, heaven forbid, after all, my Honey did tell me what to expect. I’d never want to admit this out loud, but he was right!
Fresh ingredients for Chicken Minestrone
The next day we got an early start. The pantry and fridge were bare-boned, so grocery shopping was first on the list, and we got all the fresh vegetables we’d need for the soup. After returning from the store, we tackled the yard and finished. Even though it was late afternoon, I was anxious to get back to our kitchen and start doing what I enjoy doing the most — cooking.
Formula for Minestrone
Once I had the ingredients all around me, I recalled how mamma made her minestrone; it was almost as if she had a formula in her mind. She would always add some form of beans, one or more sort of greens such as savoy cabbage, spinach, Swiss chard and then always some pasta.
Then she would add whatever else was in season plus her basics — carrots, onions, and celery. She always started by finely chopping together garlic, Italian parsley and sometimes rosemary, a little bit of bacon fat. Mamma would chop, chop, chop until it became a paste or trito. (Mamma always called it a pesto, it was after I’d started reading up on recipes indigenous to Isola D’Istria that I found Lidia’s Bastianich’s reference to it as trito).
Mamma would take a large soup pot, and she would brown the diced onions first in some olive oil and only then would she add the trito because onions took longer to sauté than garlic. ( I asked why and that is what she said)
Chicken Minestrone light and delicious
The color and texture of her minestrone changed with the seasons. Sometimes the minestra was darker in color, heavy with winter vegetables or light and clear with gently flavored springtime vegetables.
Minestre played important roles in our kitchen and in Italian cuisine. They were versatile, and mamma would change the ingredients with the seasons. They never tasted the same. They always tasted delicious. I believe mamma and papà would have heartily approved of our Chicken Minestrone. Do you have a soup that reminds you of your childhood?
Tutti a tavola è pronto!
Un caro saluto e alla prossima.
- 2 Chicken breasts with skin and bones
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 slices bacon or pancetta
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 3 peeled carrots sliced
- 2-3 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 small zucchinis, washed, ends trimmed, sliced
- 3 cups fresh green beans cleaned and diced -- you my add frozen
- 3 cups Savoy cabbage, shredded
- 1 1/2 cups baby kale
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 14 oz. can Cannellini or Great Northern beans, Lima any kind you like drained or 1 3/4 cup frozen beans or even your choice of dried beans that have been cooked according to directions.
- 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley
- 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 8 cups Homemade Chicken Broth or low-sodium canned broth warmed
- Salt and Pepper qb (quanto basta -- to taste)
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if you have a piece of crust from a hunk of parmigiano-reggianno cheese you can add it to the soup. Be sure the crust is scraped clean)
- Small pasta cooked al dente no more! -- It is served in a bowl with minestrone
- Optional: 2 TBLS tomato paste -- deeper tomato flavor
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove the bone from the breast leaving the skin on the breast. Rub the chicken bones with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the bones in a foiled lined pan with 1/2 cup of water. Roast the bones for 30 to 45 minutes until they start to brown.
- Make a pesto (trito) out of the Italian parsley, garlic and bacon or pancetta by chopping together until you get a paste. Set aside
- Choose a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven that will accommodate all the ingredients. Put 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in the pot and turn on the heat to medium high. Brown the chicken breasts by first placing the breasts skin side down. Cook about 4 minutes on one side and then 4 minutes on the other side. Pour the warmed chicken broth over the breasts and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the roasted chicken breastbones plus any renderings to the pan and slowly simmer for 40 minutes. Remove the chicken and bones from the broth. Pass the broth through a fine sieve and into another heat-proof container. Throw away the bones and let the chicken breast cool then shred or dice into bite-size pieces.
- Put in the butter, oil and diced onion into the stockpot or Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium low. Cook the onion in the uncovered pot until it it wilts and becomes a pale gold color about 6 minutes. Don't let them burn or turn dark.
- Stir in the trito and continue cooking until it melts and is lightly browned and very fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the green beans and sliced carrots. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice. These vegetables will take longer to cook so you want to layer as you cook.
- Add the sliced celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 - 4 minutes. Add the zucchini and continue stirring the ingredients. Add the shredded cabbage and continue cooking for another 5 or 6 minutes. Add the thyme and oregano. Stir to combine.
- Add the broth and the tomatoes with their juice plus a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. You can adjust the salt and pepper later on. Add the optional cheese crust now if you have it.
- Cover the pot and lower the heat so that the soup cooks steadily and slowly at a gentle simmer.
- When the soup has cooked for 2 hours, add the chicken, kale, peas and the beans. Stir well, cook for an additional 30 minutes.
- When soup is done remove the cheese crust ,if you used it, and taste for the correct amount of salt and pepper.
- To serve add pasta and ladle the chicken minestrone on top. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. This is delicious served with Italian bread.
- Minestrone is delicious served right away but it is even better reheated. Store in the refrigerator.
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