Even though my mother’s father came from Lucca, Italy, we didn’t eat a lot of Italian food at home. But that changed when I married Steve as his grandmother and mother were both born in Italy. Noni had a way of bringing Italy to the table even if it meant making it Kosher, as Steve’s grandfather and Papa came from Eastern Europe.
I created this light soup specially for Steve. Since we moved to Montana, he started a garden, and while not quiet the green thumb, he has a way of growing the best zucchini, kale, and spinach, I’ve ever eaten.
Minestra is a light vegetable soup cooked in a vegetable broth; unlike its counterpart, Minestrone, or "Big Soup," Minestra is served in the warmer months. In our recipe, we use fennel, leeks, zucchini, and spinach, accompanied by protein dense whole peas, but you can substitute it for your favorite pulse crop.
(Photo Credit USA Pulses)
Makes 6 serving
4 TBSP Olive Oil
1 medium size leek, about 1 cup, white and green parts, chopped
1 small bulb fennel, about 1 cup, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
6 cups of water
2 cups cooked dried green peas, follow package instructions
2 cup zucchini, diced in 1/2" pieces
2 cups spinach, chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 of black pepper
1/2 cup basil, torn up with your hands, as a garnish
Shaved Parmesan, as a topping
1. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 TBSP of the olive oil at medium heat.
2. Lower heat to medium-low.
3. Add the cut leek and the fennel and stir to combine; sauté for about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and smoked paprika. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Stir in the water and the peas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes.
6. Add the zucchini and spinach. Stir in the baking powder; it will keep the green vegetable looking bright green. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking. Remove the bay leaf.
7. To serve, portion the minestra into 6 bowls and top each with basil and shaved parmesan.
8. Enjoy with a crusty piece of ciabatta and a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio.