MINESTRONE WITH FORBIDDEN RICE AND FARRO. Minestrone is a most democratic recipe, every region, town or family has their own which they will obviously consider as the best. Regardless of the many variations however, a good minestrone is based on the combination of three elements: beans, vegetables and grains cooked in a vegetable or meat stock. In the past, the main ingredients were slow cooked until soft and virtually unrecognizable and reinforced with fatty meat trimmings like pork rind. Modern minestrone is more often made respecting the individual flavor, texture and cooking time of the ingredients and flavored with fresh herbs and peppery olive oil.
Here, instead of pasta, I use farro and black forbidden rice, an ancient Chinese variety of rice now cultivated in Italy with the alluring name of Venere rice. It has a high fiber content and a lovely nutty taste.
- 1 large onion, thin ly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup flowerets of cauliflower (about 1/4 head)
- ¼ head of cabbage, leaves julienned
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1/2 cup cooked borlotti beans, well rinsed and drained if canned
- ½ cup peeled and diced tomato
- ½ cup diced potato
- 1/2 cup of any other vegetable available in season (e.g. peas or green beans)
- ½ cup farro and 1/2 cup rice OR 1 cup farro
- 4 cups water or stock
- 2 tablespoon parsley and/or basil finely chopped
- 1/2 slice toasted Italian bread/person
- 1 large garlic clove, halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan/person
In a large heavy saucepan make a soffritto by cooking onion, carrots and celery in olive oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden. Add all other ingredients and simmer until fragrant. Add hot water or stock, cover and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until the soup is thickened and the grains are cooked, about 30 min. Season soup with salt and pepper.
NB. Spring vegetable, like asparagus, peas or other delicate beans, should be added only for the last 10 min of simmering, in order to avoid overcooking. Some brands of farro and wild rice might need to be soaked overnight in cold water and might have different cooking times.
At this stage the soup can be frozen in portions or cooled and reheated when needed.
When ready to serve, toast bread, rub generously with garlic and cut into small cubes. Ladle the soup into soup bowls, scatter the chopped herbs and bread cubes over it, drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil per bowl and a tablespoon Parmesan. Serve immediately.
Note that the picture above has no bread croutons and Parmesan to demonstrate the texture of the soup when ready.