When we lived in Milan, in the summer there were a number of small local trattorie that would display bowls of minestrone chock full of seasonal vegetables along their kitchen counters, or on their antipasti trolley to tempt their customers. The soup was made in the morning and allowed to come to room temperature which was the perfect temperature to serve this soup. Although until moving to Italy I had been under the mistaken impression that soup was best served hot, I learned to love soup served this way and would order it frequently. This Milanese version of minestrone would change monthly depending on what vegetables were flourishing, but it always contained rice rather than pasta, and some type of leafy green vegetable which was most often spinach. Once ordered, the bowl of soup would be drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil, and you would be offered some freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese at the table.
It really makes perfect sense to make soups like this that include fresh seasonal vegetables in the summer when vegetables are both affordable and available fresh, and if eaten at room temperature as they should be, these soups are ideal warm weather food! I like to cut the vegetables into one inch pieces which gives the soup a more country style appearance, and vary the vegetables depending on what is freshest at my local green grocers. I do not usually add dried beans such as cannellini to my version, but you certain could add a can of cannellini or Romano beans if you wanted to. Canned tomatoes could also be used in place of the fresh tomatoes, and if I have a Parmesan cheese rind on hand, it would go into the pot as well for flavoring.
Deborah Mele 2011
Summer Milanese Minestrone
A vegetable soup from Milan that is hearty enough to be a complete meal.
- 2 Medium Zucchini, Stems Removed, Halved Lengthwise, And Cut Into 1 Inch Pieces
- 1 Large Onion, Peeled, Cut Into 1 Inch Thick Rings, Then Into 1 Inch Chunks
- 4 Carrots, Peeled, Cut In Half Lengthwise, Then Cut Into 1 Inch Pieces
- 3 Stalks Celery, Cut Into 1 Inch Pieces
- 2 Medium Potatoes, Peeled, Cut Into 1 Inch Dice
- 4 Ounces Thin Green Beans Cut Into 1 Inch Pieces
- 6 Large Plum Tomatoes, Halved, Cored, Gently Squeezed To remove Most Seeds And Cut Into 1 Inch Pieces
- 8 Ounces Baby Spinach Leaves
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- 7 to 8 Cups Homemade Broth (Chicken, Beef, Or Vegetable All Work Well!)
- 4 Ounces Italian Rice (Arborio Works Best)
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cracked Black Pepper
- Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot, then add the onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini and cook 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the beans and potatoes and cook an additional 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, and add 6 cups of the broth. (The vegetables should be covered with the broth coming about one inch above the vegetables in the pot.)
- Season lightly with salt and pepper, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cook for about 2 hours, adding additional broth if needed.
- Add the spinach and rice and cook another 20 to 30 minutes or until the rice is just about tender to the bite.
- The soup should be thickened, not too thin or watery, and the vegetables meltingly tender.
- Stir in the chopped basil, adjust the seasoning and allow to come to room temperature.
- Serve in individual bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, cracked black pepper, and grated cheese if desired.