Nani's First Minestrone
Yesterday was a big day of tradition for me. I finished up and turned in my classwork for the week just as David was getting home. While I was doing my last chapter of questions I also made my first ever pot of Minestrone! The soup, the real traditional Italian soup, is one I’ve loved my whole life but had never made before. There has always been someone else to make it. I’ve supplied my Dad and brother with prosciutto ends for making the soup and well, it was about time I made the soup myself!
Traditional minestrone, made from scratch in our family's traditional way is nothing like you’ll eat in a restaurant. It’s a thicker and creamier soup with a much richer flavor and a hearty consistency. One cup is a very filling meal.
It all started, after David had left for work, with a prosciutto end and a gallon and 3 quarts of water. Big warning here for anyone who might venture to try this at home – a prosciutto end is basically a cured ham, with the skin. The skin and layer of fat doesn’t add a lot of fat to the broth, and you remove all of the end but the meat at a later step, but they add a TON of flavor! One thing hadn’t thought about, and boy I’m glad David had already left when I started, was the smell, The last couple pots of soup I’d made were vegetable soup and the whole house fills with a wonderful aroma as it starts cooking. Not so at all with a prosciutto end! Boiling the end with the skin and everything is anything but a happy aromatic experience! The smell in my kitchen was NASTY for a couple hours! It was the dawn of that nasty smell that told me it was time to add the beans. Then about a half hour later, I added the carrots and onions. The carrots and onions helped the smell a lot. Then it started to smell like soup.
A few hours in, the meat in the end was very tender and very cooked, but still hanging on to the skin! I finally decided it was time to take the end out and separate the meat to add back in. Not long after doing that my Dad called! I told Pop that I was making minestrone for the first time. He knew I was going to, but I don’t know that I told him it would be Saturday. He told me Dave was making minestrone yesterday too. The weather in Indiana and Ohio was just right for it I guess!
Pop asked me if I removed the end to separate the meat yet. I told him funny you should ask that. I was waiting to hear Noni’s voice tell me it was time and I never heard it, so I made the decision to do it on my own. I don’t know if it’s tradition hidden in my own subconscious or intervention from beyond, but when I was developing the recipe for Noni’s crostada, trying to remember how she did it, as I was about to add another ¼ cup of sugar to the dough, I heard my Grandmother’s voice, I mean I really believe it was her voice, I was alone, what could it have been, say “No so sweet!” I put the extra quarter cup back in the canister and the result was the perfect balance of sweetness in my crostada dough. I told Pop I was kinda hoping to hear her voice on the prosciutto end too.
Pop chuckled at me. He told me I wouldn’t hear Noni’s voice tell me to do anything with the prosciutto end because she never used a prosciutto end when she made minestrone! Nono cured prosciutto in the basement of their home, bone and all, and it was the bone that Noni used in minestrone. Pop and Uncle John continued the tradition of curing prosciutto at home for a while, but after they stopped that practice after Noni was gone, it was my father who started using the ends from the delis to make the soup. So, Pop calling me WAS my message from the family spirit. No long distance on this one. LOL
So zucchini and green beans were added as well as Ditalini noodles and while those cooked into the soup, I prepared the last part, which is the magic that makes it the wonderful traditional thick soup. Honestly, while it tasted good, it wasn’t pretty enough to be a restaurant soup, too dark. I chopped fresh basil and added it to a half cup of olive oil and a cup of grated parmesan cheese. That roux is what adds the final flavor and thickens it into the hearty traditional favorite I’ve always loved.
After the soup cooled, I put it into 2and 3 serving containers to go in the freezer. I had containers enough for 25 servings and one left for dinner last night and the opportunity for the cook to test it.
It’s really an easy soup to make and pretty low on Weight Watchers points too. It turned out delicious! I have decided to adjust my recipe to ¼ cup of olive oil for the roux. It wasn’t super greasy, but just a wee bit oilier than my personal taste. It was still very tasty and I’m proud of my first attempt.