And so it seems, I am on an Italian kick. I guess it’s the hearty comfort food of my Jewish childhood (oddly, that’s true) that I am craving as the weather turns brisk. 

I grew up eating my Aunt Rose’s minestrone. Aunt Rose married an Italian and spent her life trying to recreate the meals of his ancestors. I think it was more of a love for Uncle Al (which may have evolved into a love/hate but that’s an entirely different story) than a love for cooking that motivated her exploration. Aunt Rose worked on the basics: Chickpeas and Pasta; Escarole and Beans; Spinach Stuffed Shells but our family favorite was her Minestrone.

I loved my Aunt Rose, dearly. She had a quick laugh and a warm hug but most of all she made me feel special. As I developed an interest cooking, our bond strengthened. We would enjoy long phone conversations where I would ask about her dishes and different cooking techniques. As a result, she started mailing me her recipes, written in her neat script on individual index cards. These cards have become cherished memories.

With this long preamble I imagine that you will be shocked to learn that the minestrone that I make most often is not Aunt Rose’s but rather my own twist on Ina Garten’s. I know, I know, how awful! I’m a traitor. The recipes are very different–Aunt Rose’s being the more traditional with tiny meatballs and tubular pasta; Ina’s containing butternut squash, of all things. I will share both recipes with you so that hopefully you will compare, contrast and choose your favorite. But be warned, I haven’t elaborated on Aunt Rose’s basic instructions so you will have to read between the lines (for example, make your own meatballs) but really you can’t go wrong. With Ina’s recipe, I have omitted the pasta (I find that it becomes mushy and adsorbs too much liquid (especially when reheating) and I substitute kale for spinach (either will do but I like that the kale retains more of its shape). You can find Ina Garten’s original Winter Minestrone in Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. Enjoy!

Aunt Rose's Minestrone
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  1. 1 lb ground beef
  2. salt
  3. 1/2 lb small tubular pasta (ditalini)
  4. 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  5. 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  6. 2 celery stalks, chopped
  7. 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  8. 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, chopped with liquid
  9. a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  10. 1 small can green beans, drained
  11. 1 small can peas, drained
  1. Add salt to ground beef and make small meatballs (marble-sized). Cook meatballs as you would (in the oven or sauté in a pan. Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Place carrot, potato, celery, onion, tomatoes with liquid and parsley in a large stockpot. Cover with water and cook for two hours.
  4. Add green beans, peas, meatballs and pasta to the soup. Salt and pepper to taste.
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Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Serves 6
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  1. Olive oil
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  4. 3 celery stalks, diced
  5. 2 1/2 c diced peeled butternut squash
  6. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
  8. 28 oz canned chopped tomatoes
  9. 8 c chicken stock
  10. 1 bay leaf
  11. kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  12. 1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  13. 8 oz fresh kale, tough stems discarded and roughly chopped
  14. 1/2 c good dry white wine
  15. 2 Tbls store-bought pesto (optional)
  16. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
  1. Heat 4 Tbls olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot.
  2. Add onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetable begin to soften.
  3. Add the tomatoes, 6 c of chicken stock, bay leaf, 1 Tbls salt and 1 1/2 tsp of pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and kale. The soup should be thick but at this point I like to add up to 2 cups more chicken stock. Stir well to immerse all of the kale and heat through.
  5. Stir in the white wine and pesto, if using.
  6. Depending on the saltiness of your chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste.
  7. Serve in large shallow bowls, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.
  1. The photo above is of this Minestrone.
Adapted from Ina Garten: Barefoot Contessa Foolproof
Adapted from Ina Garten: Barefoot Contessa Foolproof
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