Classic Minestrone Soup

Classic Minestrone Soup

According to Marcella Hazan, the character of an Italian soup depends on two things: the season and the place.

If you plopped yourself into summertime on the coast of southern Italy for example, your bowl of soup would likely be a fragrant chemistry of ripe tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and sparkling fresh seafood; during colder months further north in Tuscany there’d be a hearty stick-to-your-ribs stew – ribollita – containing dried beans, potatoes, stale bread and winter vegetables like cabbage and kale.

Classic minestrone soup is a versatile recipe, easy to put together any time of year, comfortably bridging transitions between seasons. My summer minestrone would definitely include fresh tomatoes, zucchini and lots of basil, but the soup I made yesterday was based on what I have in the winter pantry: carrots, onion, fennel bulb, cooked Italian beans and a little tomato paste. I stirred in cooked whole wheat elbow macaroni, blanched green beans and dark green spinach too.

Sprinkle with a little freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, serve with crusty bread and call it dinner.

Classic Minestrone Soup

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped

3 or 4 finely chopped garlic cloves

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Salt and fresh ground pepper

2 cups cooked dried beans or canned kidney beans, drained

Large handful green beans, blanched in salted boiling water 3 minutes; cut into 2-inch pieces

Small bunch dark leafy greens: spinach, chard or kale, washed

2 cups cooked bite size pasta, such as elbows, ditali or tiny shells

Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot. Add the carrots and onion. Cook for a 3-4 mintues; add the celery and fennel and cook a few minutes more to soften.
  2. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and about 1 teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Pour in 6 cups water and bring to a simmer. Add the dried beans, partially cover the pot and cook 15 minutes at a simmer.
  3. Just before serving, stir in the green beans and spinach. Taste the soup and add more salt and pepper if you want to. Sprinkle with cheese at the table.
  4. Like all soup, this tastes great made ahead a day or two and reheated.

Mochaccino Sparkle Cookies

These fudgy, sparkling cookies were my favorite holiday baking recipe this season. I wanted to bake an assortment of cookies that would hold up for packing and shipping across the country as gifts and they worked perfectly.

Also in the mix were my go-to Lemon Biscotti flavored with pistachio; hazelnut shortbread and peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies. The sparkles were my chocolate pick – I love their crackled tops, chewy-crunchy texture and layers of spice and espresso in each bite.

I promised a few people I’d share the recipe, so here it is!
Happy New Year – I hope it’s a sweet and delicious 2012.

Mochaccino Sparkle Cookies

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

Based on a recipe from BHG


2/3 cup (11 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup natural cane sugar

1 ½ cups cocoa powder

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon salt

4 egg whites

1 cup plain yogurt

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sanding sugar, turbinado sugar or granulated sugar


  1. Beat the butter in a standing mixer bowl on medium-high speed until light, about 1 minute. Add the sugars, cocoa, espresso, baking soda, spices and salt and beat until combined. Beat in the egg whites and yogurt.
  2. Slow the mixer speed to stir and add flour in 1 cup additions until just blended - do not overmix. Cover the mixing bowl and chill in the refrigerator until the dough is easy to scoop.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop balls of dough (I used a 1 1/2 tablespoon size scoop), roll them generously in sugar and arrange on the baking sheets at least 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake cookies in batches about 12 minutes or until the edges are just firm. It's okay to underbake the middles slightly if you like a more chewy center. Cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.