My Nonna's Minestra

 Minestra- or mix-up, is a hearty soup from the Italian American tradition of using up what you have to make a hearty (and cheap) dinner.  Many European cultures have similar soups-Ukranian Kapusta comes to mind here. The idea is to cook the greens and cabbage for hours, making them fully digestible and adding a fatty, well seasoned meat for the nutrients from the greens to bind with. You will get up to 10 time for nutritional ABSORPTION when you cook greens well and have some fat in there. It's science. 1000 years of survival cooking have proven it. Go for it! 
Back in the day, my frugal Nonna (and many others, I'm sure) saved pepperoni, salami and ham bone scraps for her minestra.  Today, you can grab a stick of pepperoni (PLEASE find imported stuff, the Boar's head pepperoni SUCKS big time), a smoked ham hock or a chunk of ham to launch this soup. Jam on it with the greens. The pepperoni is the essential agent that give's it its distinctive flavor and what separates  it from any ol' pot of greens.!
Have fun, let it cook all day.

Minestra, Cooked all day with the smokey, spicy meats---Damn!!! Bring it on!


One of my favorites leftover meals is, the Next Day Minestra Sandwich.
Split a loaf of Italian bread and fill it with the cold cooked down cabbage and greens, drizzle with olive oil and hot sauce...that's a Peasant Sandwich! 

Give it time

Makes a nice pot.
1/4 cup olive oil1 onion, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 stock celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 medium head of cabbage, cored and chopped
1 medium head of escarole or chicory, chopped
big handful of spinach or 2 packs of frozen leaf spinach *see note below
1 stick pepperoni ( about 8 oz) cut into 1 inch chunks
1 smoked ham hock
any "ends" you make have, like prosciutto, bacon, capicola, sopresatta, salami etc
Water
In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot heat the oil and add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic.
Sprinkle modestly with salt and allow to saute until the veggies are shiny but not brown.
Add the cabbage and escarole ( save the spinach for later), the meat and cover with water.
Don't worry, that cabbage and escarole will cook down to about 15% of their raw volume.
 Bring to a rolling boil. Boil for about 10 minutes then reduce the heat to s brisk simmer and cook for at least two hours. Add the spinach and cook for an additional half hour.
You may want sone hardcore peasant bread with this if you are not Keto!

*Note on spinach. The spinach being sold in most supermarkets now is baby spinach. It makes a great salad but it sucks for cooking. It has no texture and little or no flavor and cooks down to a slimy nothing. Have you ever seen the big leafy spinach in farmer's markets, you know the kind with the dense stems? That's the real stuff, the cooking stuff, the stuff Popeye ate! Well, frozen spinach is just that,  full grown spinach in all its glory and it's best for cooking in soups and stews. Keep that in mind. 

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