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Minestrone Soup

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© 2011 Helana Brigman
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Last fall, I remember hoping, praying, and dreaming of the day when I could wear my fall boots, sheer black tights, and floppy motorcycle jacket.  The day when soup wouldn’t make me sweat, but warm my chilled body.  The day when warm crusty bread wouldn’t be so much of a guilty pleasure as it would be a necessity in cold winds and chilly weather.Today, I finally got my wish–45F weather for most of the afternoon and although I’m wearing my favorite brown leather boots from Italy (by Vigotti), a maxi dress from Modcloth, and my favorite leather jacket, I think I’ve somehow forgotten just how cold *cold* actually is when you’re craving soup.

There’s a reason we make this dish hot.  Because I am freezing.

Today I offer readers a new take on a traditional comfort food classic with this robust Minestrone Soup.  Filled to the brim with hardy vegetables and tons of broth, the accompanying pasta shells just call out for one more tasty companion–fresh from the oven Italian Bread Bowls.

Because I think every soup tastes better in a baked bread bowl, voila! Try this combination immediately, especially if you’re cold.  The next time it’s a bit warm, you may not miss the fall fashions like me, but you will certainly miss this hardy pleasure.

Minestrone Soup

This recipe is my own variation on an American favorite.  I’ve added tons of extra vegetables, a large amount of bacon, and herbs de provence for some serious flavor.

Ingredients:

* 1 carrot, thinly sliced

* 1/2 red pepper, chopped

* 1 celery stick, sliced thin

* 1 onion, chopped

* 1/2 pack bacon (about 6 ounces or 6 strips), chopped into chunks

* 2 zucchinis, chopped

* 2 boxes chicken broth (about 8 cups)

* 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes

* 1 tomato, chopped

* 1 (15-oz) can canneli beans, drained

* 1 teaspoon thyme

* 3 bay leaves

* 1-2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

* 1 tablespoon dry sage

* 6 ounces (about 1/2 box) shell pasta

* large handful basil, thinly sliced

* Salt & pepper, to taste

1.) Prep vegetables: chop carrots, celery, onion, red pepper, zucchinis, tomato, and herbs–parsley, basil, and thyme.

2.) Chunk up bacon and add to a large non-stick pot. When bacon has started to pop and render its fat, add onions, carrots, celery, and peppers to the pot.  Cook until onions are translucent and hard vegetables such as the carrots and celery are tender.

3.) Pour two boxes chicken broth, the canneli beans, canned tomatoes, shell pasta, and the rest of the vegetables in the pot and bring the soup to a boil.  Add spices (salt and pepper) and herbs (basil, sage, parsley, and bay leaves) to the pot, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, or until soup has reduced by about a fourth.

Serve in warm bread bowls (recipe follows).  Enjoy! Makes 15 servings.  This soup will last you for at least a week!

Italian Bread Bowls

This recipe is courtesy of a cook over at All Recipes.  You can find the recipe here.  Although I think my no-knead Ciabatta Bread recipe makes for a better bread bowl, this dish is quick and easy for those of us who forgot to prep the dough the night before.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

* .5 oz active dry yeast (1 tablespoon)

* 2 1/2 cups warm water

* 2 teaspoons salt

* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

* 7 cups all purpose flour (can use half all purpose flour and half bread flour)

For Dressing Dough Balls:

* 1-2 tablespoons cornmeal

* 1 egg, beaten

1.) Add yeast and water to a bowl and wait until yeast is foamy (about 10 minutes).  Add salt, vegetable oil, and flour one cup at a time using the kneading hook on a standing Kitchenaid Mixer.

2.) When dough has pulled together, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands for about minute.  Grease down bowl and lightly coat dough ball.  Cover bowl and allow dough to rise for at least forty minutes.  I waited for an hour and half until the dough ball doubled in size.

3.) Preheat oven to 400F.  Transfer dough to a floured surface and separate into 6 balls.  Lightly cover baking sheet with corn meal and place dough balls on sheet making sure they’re evenly separated.  Beat 1 egg and brush over the dough balls.

4.) Bake bread bowls for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and hollow before serving and filling with soup.  Make sure to reserve all of the bread (top and inside) for dipping in the soup.

Makes 6 bread bowls.


Minestrone

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Minestrone Soup, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
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