Marcella Hazan’s Minestrone alla Romagnola

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If you’re not hopelessly nerdy like me, you probably won’t like this post and I’m totally sorry.  There is a fantastic (not bragging, because it’s not mine!) recipe for minestrone soup if you scroll down.

So, it goes like this: When I was juuust starting to cook as a thing–a hobby–I picked up Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and started to read it as if it were a novel.  It’s a serious book for serious Italian cuisine, and soon enough, I came across this: “The least acceptable method of preparing garlic is squeezing it through a press.”

Uh oh.  I totally had (and used) a garlic press.

I didn’t question this assertion, and my garlic press eventually disappeared.  I figured it must be something about bruising or otherwise adulterating the garlic.  It wasn’t until now that I truly felt a need to know: Why do so many chefs hate on the garlic press?

There seem to be two major reasons.

The first is concerning flavor.  Pressing breaks more cell walls and releases more compounds, resulting in a more aggressive, sharper flavor.  However, some point out that pressed garlic goo is more uniform, and the result is a better distribution of flavor throughout the dish.  So there’s that.

Secondly, a garlic press is a one-trick pony that takes up valuable space for the sake of one function that can easily be performed using, you know, a knife.

I honestly didn’t pay THAT much attention at that point in my life to notice a difference in flavor, and I don’t have the (much-maligned) equipment to experiment now.  And, I think some one-trick ponies are worth it, like my potato ricer (really, a bigger version of the garlic press) for the fluffy, perfectly uniform spuds, or my lemon zester, for those perfect lemon-peel cocktail garnishes.  And I’m totally getting a cherry pitter come summer.

My official verdict, after all that? I dunno, man.

Do what you like.  I won’t be buying one again anytime soon.

The really embarrassing part of this post is that there is no garlic in this soup.  HAHAHA SUCKERS.

BUT, this is really the real-deal recipe for minestrone.  If you’re like me, you’ve been disappointed many a time at restaurants when presented with what is obviously reheated Progresso.  Trust me, this is what you REALLY wanted every single time that happened.

This isn’t exactly Marcella’s recipe.  I dialed back the oil and skipped the butter (it’s a personal texture/mouthfeel preference) and used a crockpot (preference for being lazy and scatterbrained).  Plus, some minor variation in the proportions of veggies.  I don’t know if she would hate me for messing with perfection, but I think she’d forgive me if I tell her a joke and buy her a milkshake.

Marcella Hazan’s Minestrone alla Romagnola
(adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 lb fresh zucchini (about 3 or 4) 
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 medium peeled potatoes (I used unpeeled Yukon Golds)
1/4 lb fresh green beans
3 cups shredded cabbage (regular or Savoy; about 1/2 a small head)
6 cups low-sodium broth of your choice (I used chicken)
1 15-oz can stewed tomatoes and their juices
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Turn crock pot on to high and heat olive oil and chopped onion until onion starts to become translucent and soft while you chop and prepare other ingredients.  Dice the zucchini, carrots, celery and potatoes.  Trim and chop the green beans.  Add all but the last three ingredients to the crock pot, cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours.  Taste and season with salt and pepper, then add the beans and stir to combine.  Serve with a fresh grating of parmesan.

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  1. susan says

    Best soup ever, however, I think using beef broth (I don’t use fresh) makes a profound difference. Try it