We’ve been getting rain (lots of rain) here in California, and with it has come some challenges: flash floods, mudslides and the like, along with colder weather. We’re not complaining about the rain itself — we still need close to 50 inches to fill up our water supply at Lake Cachuma — but on days when you’re stuck inside during a rainstorm (or a snowstorm, as the case may be) what’s better than to make minestrone!
There are probably as many ways to prepare a good minestrone as there are dialects in Italy. The Gourmet Girls chose to include in their camping cookbook a recipe for minestrone that hails from the Liguria region. It’s great recipe for fall or winter camping and the pesto can be made ahead of time at home. This recipe serves 8.
½ cup olive oil, plus ¼ cup
1 leek, white part, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 medium-sized red onion, chopped
3 medium-sized celery stalks, chopped
1 large boiling potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise into quarters
1 ripe tomato, peeled and seeded
Handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup beef broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ pound short tubular dried pasta
1 can cannellini beans
Make ahead: Pesto
¼ cup walnuts
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 tablespoon butter
1½ cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2 medium-sized cloves garlic, peeled
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Put the walnuts, pine nuts, basil, garlic, and ¼ of the oil in a blender or food processor and grind until very fine. Add the remaining ¼ cup oil and blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Transfer to a storage container. Add Parmesan, salt and pepper and mix together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to pack up.
At the campsite: Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a stockpot and add the chopped ingredients, potato, and carrots. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomato and sauté for 5 minutes longer. Add broth to the saucepot. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for ½ hour. Raise heat under the stockpot until liquid comes to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 9 to 12 minutes. Remove the stockpot from the heat. Drain the can of cannellini beans and add to the pot. Mix well. Add half of the pesto to the stockpot, stir very well, and serve immediately, adding some of the pesto to each serving.
Get cozy by the fire and enjoy a big bowl of carb-based joy, with a hefty garnish of vegetables to gladden the heartstrings of health.
Minestrone is a wonderfully versatile dish that works with whatever seasonal vegetables you happen to have to hand – just make sure the broth is flavorful enough to give the dish character, without overwhelming the other ingredients, and there’s enough starch to satisfy even the most active hiker in your group.
Until next time,
Gail, Denise and Lindsey
The Gourmet Girls on Fire