Traditionally, the Tuscan-style minestrone is made on one day, then the leftover soup is reheated the next and thickened with chunks of day-old crusty Italian bread or served over thick slices of toasted bread, which soften in the broth and absorb the delicious vegetable seasonings. There are countless versions, of course, but most include day-old bread, cannellini beans, and cavolo nero (black kale, which can be replaced with Savoy cabbage). I like to top each portion with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. True to its name, this soup tastes even better when it’s prepared a day or two ahead and reheated before serving.
- 8 ounces (1 cup) dried great Northern or cannellini beans
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for garnish
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped leek, white and light green parts only (about 1 medium leek)
- 1/2 cup diced carrot (1/2-inch dice)
- 1/2 cup diced celery (1/2-inch dice)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary (see note)
- One 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes and their juices
- 8 to 10 ounces Savoy cabbage (from 1 head), halved, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips to make 2 1/2 to 3 cups
- Kosher salt
- 8 ounces russet or Yukon gold potato (1 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 8 ounces zucchini (1 medium), halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 6 ounces green chard, stems removed and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips to make 2 cups
- 8 1/2-inch-thick slices day-old Italian bread
- 1 to 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish
1 Rinse and sort through the beans to remove any pebbles. Put beans in a large bowl; cover with 3 cups of boiling water. Soak beans for 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and reserve.
2 Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, leek, carrot, and celery and sauté until just softened, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add minced garlic and rosemary and sauté 1 minute more.
3 Add 8 cups water, reserved beans, tomatoes, cabbage, and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook at a simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
4 Add potatoes, zucchini, and chard; simmer, covered, until the potatoes and zucchini are tender and chard has wilted, for 20 to 25 minutes. Taste soup and season with salt, as needed. (Soup can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.)
5 When ready to serve, lightly toast the bread slices, then rub each piece on both sides with a cut garlic clove. Place 1 bread slice in the bottom of 6 soup bowls and ladle soup over. Garnish each serving with grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
At the market note: To save time, buy crushed dried rosemary, rather than whole rosemary leaves that you must crush yourself. Crushed rosemary can be found in the spice section of most supermarkets. McCormick’s brand is widely available.
Cooking tip: This soup can be served as soon as it is made, but it improves in flavor when prepared 2 days ahead and “cooked again” or reheated.
Prep time: 1 hour
Start to finish: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Make ahead: Yes
From Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouth-Watering, Easy-To-Make Recipes. Published by Chronicle Books. Copyright © 2008 by Betty Rosbottom. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Chronicle Books.