A bountiful dish that is eaten every day for lunch by some of the world’s longest-lived families in Sardinia, Italy. It can be made with seasonal vegetables from the garden, but always includes beans and fregula, a toasted pebble-size semolina pasta that is popular in Sardina.
- 1⁄2 cup dried peeled fava beans
- 1⁄2 cup dried cranberry beans
- 1⁄3 cup dried chickpeas
- 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow or white onion
chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium carrots
peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
- 2 medium celery stalks
chopped (about 1⁄2 cup)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
(about 31⁄2 cups)
- 3 medium yellow potatoes
peeled and diced (about 11⁄2 cups)
- 1 1⁄2 cups chopped fennel
- 1⁄4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
chopped 2 tablespoons
- chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2⁄3 cup of Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous, or acini di pepe pasta
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano
(about 2 ounces)
- Soak the fava beans, cranberry beans, and chickpeas in a large bowl of water for at least 8 hours or up to 16 hours (that is, overnight). Drain in a colander set in the sink. Rinse well.
- Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery; cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
- Stir in the tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley, and basil, as well as the drained beans and chickpeas. Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything is submerged by 1 inch.
- Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the beans are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets too thick, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
- Stir in the pasta, salt, and pepper. Add up to 2 cups water if the soup seems too dry. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into each off our serving bowls. Divide the soup among them and top each with 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese.
- You can vary the beans in the minestrone: pinto beans make a good substitute for cranberry beans; great northern or cannellini beans, for the favas.
- Use the stalks and fronds that come off a fennel bulb for the most intense flavor. No feathery fronds on the bulb? Add a teaspoon of fennel seeds to the aromatic vegetables you sauté to begin the dish.
- Add other fresh vegetables from the garden or market, such as zucchini, cabbage, green beans, and cauliflower or broccoli florets.
- Want a stronger tomato taste? Stir in a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. You get the idea!
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