Fresh From Nancy's Garden

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A Trip To Tuscookany + Franco’s Minestrone = Buon Appetito!

Last April, in my blog about Swiss chard, I promised I would share Franco’s minestrone recipe and now, with his permission, here it is.

My love affair with Italy didn’t begin last year with my cooking vacation at Tuscookany, but rather during my junior year of college when I lived in Florence. Back then, Italy was more famous for strikes than spaghetti and the Red Brigade was discussed more often than red sauce. Trains were never on time and coins were sparse. It was common to get back your change from a purchase in either little candies or postage stamps. Really!

But that’s not the Italy tourists see today. In some ways I miss the old Italy, when there were more backpackers than busloads of tourists traipsing through Tuscany. But the old Italy would have never given me a trip to Tuscookany,, which in some roundabout way led me to writing to this blog.

The Swiss chard and carrots came from my garden…yes, the white ones are carrots.

  • 5 Liters good stock (I use chicken broth)
  • 2 leeks thinly sliced, both white and light green parts
  • 2 small white onions
  • 1/2 cabbage
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 peeled potato
  • 1 slice pumpkin (or other similar squash)
  • 1 large handful fresh spinach
  • 1 can artichoke hearts (Franco uses fresh, but I substituted)
  • 4 Swiss chard stalks
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 cup olive oil (I use a little less to saute)
  • Seasonings (see below)
  • Small piece of the rind of Parmesan cheese

Make the tomato sauce first since you’ll need to add it to the soup.

Tomato Sauce
  • 3 28 oz. cans San Marzano whole tomatoes 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 TBS olive oil
  • 1 handful fresh chopped basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (if needed)
  1. Put tomatoes through a food mill.
  2. Heat olive oil in saucepan and add the onions, garlic and saute until onions are golden.
  3. Cook for 15 minutes, add salt, pepper and basil.
  4. If it’s sour, add half a teaspoon of baking soda.
This makes a liter, so I freeze what I don’t use.

Dice all the vegetables the same size–SMALL–and keep each vegetables separate. I was surprised that Franco had us cut them so small, I thought they would get mushy when you cooked them, but they didn’t.

Saute garlic and olive oil in a large pot. I use my 9 1/2 Qt. Le Creuset.

Add the slowest cooking vegetables first: carrots, potatoes, leeks, cabbage, onions, and pumpkin. 

After 5 minutes add zucchini, celery, Swiss chard and spinach and stir.

Add the stock and tomato sauce. I suppose you could cheat and use canned tomato sauce, but it’s really worth going to the trouble of making it from scratch. Franco says to cook until it reduces by 25% but mine only seems to reduce about 10%. 

Add the beans, the artichokes and the rind of the Parmesan. They say when you serve it the person who gets the rind in their bowl will have good luck!

I skim a little of the foam off the top.

Season to taste. I add salt, pepper, and play around with other seasonings. Sometimes it’s Emeril original seasoning, other times Italian seasonings. Just keep tasting until you get the flavor you like.

Let it simmer uncovered for a couple hours. It’s even better the next day, and best of all…it freezes well!

I know this recipes sounds like a lot of work and a lot of time, but believe me, you’ll be so happy when you’re done. And maybe you’ll be the one to get the rind and be blessed with good luck. But even it you don’t, you’ll be very content with your great meal.

Buon Appetito!

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4 replies

  1. this looks so delicious! be sure to thank franco for us!

  2. Wish I had some of your minestrone during the snowstorm on Wednesday in Denver

  3. Now if it was just a tad cooler…Looks yummy Nancy.

  4. I spent an amazing week at Tuscookany in August this year and had a great time learning from Franco. it far exceeded my expectations. Loving the inspiration in your blog.

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