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Minestrone for a Crowd

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Minestrone

Fresh ingredients are combined into a heavenly minestrone soup great for guests.

Ingredients

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

1 cup (7 ounces) dried cannellini beans
8 to 10 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves (or 1 tablespoon crumbled dried sage)
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium (8 ounces) fennel bulb
3 medium celery ribs, thinly sliced
4 ounces kale, spinach, or mustard greens
2 pounds red tomatoes
1/2 small butternut squash
2 red pimento peppers
12 ounces zucchini
1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
Oregano, fresh or dried
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 cups homemade or canned vegetable broth

Garnishes:
Fruity green olive oil or pesto
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

1. Put the dried cannellini beans in a large pot with 6 cups of water, 6 peeled cloves of garlic, and the sage. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for at least an hour, or until the beans are tender. Add a teaspoon of salt.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and the remaining cloves of garlic, sliced thin. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Trim the fennel, cut it into 1/2-inch dice, and add it to the onion and garlic, along with the celery and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook another 15 minutes, stirring now and then.

3. Trim the tough stems off the greens, and cut the greens into 1-inch strips. Peel the tomatoes, and cut them into chunks, keeping all the juice (you should have about 3 cups). Peel and seed the butter-nut squash, and cut it into 1-inch dice (about 2 cups). Seed and coarsely chop the pimentos. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, and slice it thick. Add these vegetables to the soup pot, along with 5 cups water, the parsley and basil, and a generous pinch of oregano. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes.

4. When the cannellini are ready, add them to the vegetable soup along with |all their broth, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and as much of the vegetable broth as you need to give the soup a consistency you like. Simmer the soup a few minutes to marry the flavors, then taste, and adjust with more salt and pepper, if needed.

5. To serve, drizzle a little fruity green olive oil on top of each bowl, or add a teaspoon of pesto, and pass around some Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Recipe printed with permission from Love Soup, by Anna Thomas.
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