Winter Greens Minestrone

A nice hearty minestrone soup featuring the winter greens of savoy, escarole, and Swiss chard… those big leafy things hanging around the produce cart that no one seems to know what to do with.

  • 1/3 pound sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 3 medium red onions, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 3 quart hot water
  • 5 cups coarsely chopped cabbage (1/2  ounces)
  • 5 cups coarsely chopped escarole (1/2 pound)
  • 1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about 3 by 1 1/2 inches)
  • 1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Cook the pancetta, onions, celery, and carrots in oil in a wide 7-to 9-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, while preparing chard.

Cut out stems from chard and chop stems, reserving leaves. Stir chard stems into pancetta mixture with garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and begin to stick to bottom of pot.

Lower the heat to a simmer and push the vegetables to the sides of the pot. Add the tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir paste into vegetables and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. The paste may get sticky, but keep at it and don’t let it burn. Burnt paste is just nasty! Oh, make sure that the can if whole tomatoes is already open and ready to go because you’re going to need then right away…

Stir in tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a spoon, then add hot water (3 quarts), scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pot, deglazing the fond to get all that flavor into the soup.

Bring to a simmer. Stir in cabbage, escarole, and parmesan rind. Simmer, covered, until greens are tender, about 40 minutes. Now, the rind is a very important ingredient adding a cheesy and smokey flavor.

Coarsely chop chard leaves and stir into soup along with beans. Simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. Discard rind. Now, you can usually pick up a rind and any good cheese shop. I get mine from a cheese shop on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg.