There are as many versions of minestrone as there are cooks in Italy, but the soup always contains a wide variety of vegetables and usually includes beans and either pasta or rice. If you happen to have the rind from a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, throw that into the soup pot as well. The arborio rice here soaks up and also thickens the liquid; if the soup gets too thick, don't hesitate to add water or more stock.
1/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 zucchini, cut in quarters lengthwise and then crosswise into thin slices
3/4 pound boiling potatoes (about 2), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
How to Make It
In a large pot, heat the 1/4 cup oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes longer.
Add the broth, beans, rice, potatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, and salt to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the rice and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
Stir the pepper into the soup. Sprinkle each bowlful with Parmesan and drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of the remaining oil.
Wine Recommendation: Salice Salentino, a rich and rustic red from southern Italy's Apulia, is a heartwarming match for this familiar classic. The wine is produced in vast quantities, making it a snap to find.