Though it is forecast to be quite warm and summery this week, I looked at the vegetables in my fridge and decided it is a good day for Minestrone soup. Perhaps this was precipitated by the sad news that Marcella Hazan, the queen of Italian cooking, died yesterday. The soup that I make, and have been making for 20 years, is based on her recipe.
When I was pregnant with my first child, 21 years ago (yikes!!), I had the incredible good luck, que fortuna, to move to Milan, Italy for my husband’s job. We arrived in Italy with our dog, a few suitcases, my chef’s knives and a copy of Marcella’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I figured that this was the only reference I would need to navigate the food markets and learn to make delicious Italian food. And indeed, in the three years we spent in Italy, in addition to having two children and learning to speak the language, I learned to think about food like an Italian and cook it too. My babies gnawed on a thick rind of Parmesan cheese instead of teething biscuits and Spaghetti Carbonara is still always requested on birthdays and special occasions.
Over the years, I have change the soup recipe a little. I leave out the Parmesan cheese rind (though it gives a delicious creaminess to the soup) and sometimes I skip the potatoes to make it lighter. But I still make it the way Marcella instructs, sauteeing onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oil and adding the vegetables one at a time, cooking them in the oil to caramelize them and give the soup richness and depth of flavor. It goes without saying that a steaming bowl of Minestrone makes a perfect Indian Summer dinner, eaten outdoors on this lovely last day of September. I am going to have mine with a glass of Chianti, sitting in front of my Fancy Fire Pit, and drink to Marcella. I did not know her, but she taught me much about cooking like an Italian and for that I am grateful.