Such is the minestrone at Ciao Amici’s in Brighton, and Paesano’s Restaurant in Ann Arbor, both favorites of mine for years. Like any good minestrone, these restaurants always serve theirs piping hot and topped with freshly grated cheese.
For years, I’ve tried to duplicate these minestrones. I’ve come close, for sure, but never close enough to satisfy me. Then, I came across a recipe attributed to Paesano’s on the Internet, which I then adapted to my own liking.
The result is a rich, tasty soup that is thicker than either Ciao Amici’s or Paesano’s; it leans toward a consistency more like stew. It is a healthy, satisfying meal in a bowl, packed full of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
I use organic ingredients — including the beans and tomato products, which are easy to find in any market these days. One batch I made last summer sang with the cabbage I bought from an organic farmer.
I’ve also made the soup with dried beans, but I prefer eliminating the extra time and work involved in prepping the dried beans. I guess I am just a little lazy that way; however, the soup is wonderful no matter which beans you use.
If you like minestrone soup that leans toward the super-hearty, you’ll like this, and keep in mind that it makes a huge pot full:
1 fresh garlic clove, crushed
Olive oil as needed
1 small green cabbage, diced
2 carrots, half-moon sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 32-ounce cans organic diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable juice
1 16-ounce can Great Northern beans, not drained
1 16-ounce can Garbanzo beans, drained
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup whole wheat acini de pepe, which are teeny-tiny and round, hence the name “pepe,” which is Italian for pepper. You can use any small pasta you like.
Sea salt and pepper to taste
8 cups water
Fresh spinach, chopped
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
The soup comes together quickly, so my advice is to have all the ingredients prepped, drained, measured and ready to go before you begin.
In a large soup pot, lightly brown the crushed garlic in the olive oil.
Add the vegetables, oregano and basil; cook for 5 minutes.
Add all the tomato products and water; bring to a boil.
After the soup comes to a boil, add pepper and sugar. Stir well and add the beans.
Simmer the soup for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the acini de pepe (or pasta of your choice). Stir and cook 10 more minutes.
Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking.
Place handful of chopped spinach into a soup bowl; ladle the soup over.
Top with grated cheese and enjoy.