You might say that most western cultures have for centuries made some variation on minestrone, watery bowls of vegetables when times were lean, fuller pots bursting with garden produce in the growing months. The true Italian dish often contains seasonal vegetables simmered with tomatoes, potatoes, and pasta, sometimes with a swirl of pesto. This New England version has mostly root vegetables, cut into small dice and simmered in chicken or vegetable stock with tomatoes. White beans and baby spinach are added later. The flavor is sweet with onion, carrots, celeriac, turnips, and rutabaga. A secret ingredient is a piece of Parmesan rind, which gives the broth a wonderful flavor. Sprinkle the finished bowls with grated Parmesan and black pepper. Start the pot by cooking onions in olive oil, then keep adding vegetables as you chop them, layering them in the pot until they’re all in.
|3||tablespoons olive oil|
|1||large onion, coarsely chopped|
|4||carrots, quartered lengthwise and sliced on the diagonal|
|1||celeriac (celery root), peeled and cut into ½-inch dice|
|1||large turnip, cut into ½-inch dice|
|1||large rutabaga, cut into ½-inch dice|
|2||cloves garlic, finely chopped|
|Salt and black pepper, to taste|
|1||can (about 15 ounces) whole tomatoes, crushed in a bowl|
|¼||teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste|
|8||cups chicken or vegetable stock|
|1||piece (4 inches) Parmesan rind|
|¼||bunch fresh thyme, leaves coarsely chopped|
|1||can (15 ounces) white beans, drained|
|5||ounces baby spinach, stemmed|
|½||cup freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)|
1. In a soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celeriac, turnip, rutabaga, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Continue cooking, stirring often, for 10 minutes.
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2. Add the tomatoes and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the stock, Parmesan rind, thyme leaves, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and set on the cover askew. Simmer for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the beans, set on the cover askew, and continue simmering for 15 minutes. Add the spinach, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. (Total simmering time is 65 minutes.) Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan.