Every few weeks The Chopping Block hosts a Knife Skills class, which I quickly found to be incredibly valuable for any developing cook. Over the span of a two hour course, I witness twelve eager home cooks gain confidence in the hold and motion of a chef knife, as well as learn strategies for evenly and efficiently cutting their menu ingredients. Upon departure each student carries away a couple of quarts of impeccably cut vegetables ready to be applied to a meal of their vision. Soup and stir-fry are the go-to suggestions. I recently made a minestrone from such a bounty.
I like to include pasta in my minestrone, which is traditional. The noodle choice should be made around what can fit on a spoon. A dried, store-bought variety would work just fine, but I hadn’t used my pasta roller in quite a while, so I opted to make my noodles from scratch. Skim past this next section if you are sticking with dried pasta, but I will leave you with this note: orecchiette is a rare pasta variety that doesn’t require a pasta roller, pasta extruder, or even a rolling pin to get right.
Yield: 1-1 ½ cups of ‘little ears’
1 cup of high gluten flour such as bread flour, but preferably ‘00’ flour
2 Tablespoons semolina flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
1. Mix the two flours and the salt in a bowl. Push a crater into the mound of flour and crack the eggs into it with the water.
2. Whisk the eggs and water, allowing adjacent flour to be drawn in to gradually thicken the mixture. Depending on the size of your eggs you will often not require all the flour, so keep the thickening egg mass out of the surrounding flour.
3. Once the eggs turn to a soft dough your fork will no longer help you. Discard it and work the mixture by hand, adding flour until you achieve a firm but malleable dough. Knead it for ten minutes by hand until it is smooth and supple. Wrap it in plastic and allow to sit for 30 minutes until its gluten has relaxed.
4. At this point you can roll the dough to a very thick 1/8 inch and punch circles as I did, or you can pluck small chunks of dough from the mass. Press a finger into the dough until you have the characteristic indented circle. Lightly flour these to prevent sticking and set aside.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 3 quarts, approximately 6 large portions
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups yellow onion, small dice
2 cups zucchini, small dice
1 cup celery, small dice
1 cup carrot, small dice
1 cup red bell pepper, small dice
2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons garlic, minced
12 cups water
1 12oz can kidney beans
1 12oz can white beans
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon concentrated vegetable stock base, such as Better than Boullion
1 12oz can diced tomato, some liquid drained off
Salt and pepper
1 recipe fresh orecchiette pasta
Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Pour the oil into an large pot and heat on medium. Add all of the vegetables through the garlic. Maintain a medium heat so the vegetables gently cook without browning. Salt with about a teaspoon.
2. Add the beans, dried herbs, stock base, tomato, and many grinds of fresh black pepper. Salt some more. Bring this to a boil, allow to simmer for five minutes.
3. Add the noodles. Continue to simmer for another two minutes to cook the noodles.
4. Serve in bowls topped with good quality Parmigiano, grated very fine, and a splash of good olive oil. Listen to Dean Martin.
The vegetable quantities are based on a standard yield from The Chopping Block’s Knife Skills Class. I’ve included bell pepper because it is part of that vegetable bounty, but traditionally it is not included in minestrone.
Join us for an upcoming Knife Skills class whether in-person at the Mart or virtually from your own home:
- Sunday, April 10 11am Merchandise Mart Only 2 spots left!
- Saturday, April 23 11am Merchandise Mart
- Virtual Knife Skills Saturday, April 23 11am CST