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Minestrone Soup with Clams and Saffron Pasta
by Wolfgang Puck
I love good vegetable soup at any time of year. But spring feels especially perfect for making a soup full of all kinds of different vegetables. That's one of the best ways I know to welcome the season of rebirth.
More often than not, the vegetable soup I'll choose to make is minestrone. This widely known traditional Italian specialty gets its name from the old Italian word minestrare , meaning "to dish up" food generously. What a perfect description for the robust spirit of minestrone, which always dishes up a variety of vegetables along with such satisfying additions as beans, pasta, or rice, and sometimes even meat, poultry, or seafood.
My recipe for Minestrone with Clams and Saffron Pasta is a fine example of just that sort of preparation. It includes a cornucopia of different vegetables that you can find these days at just about any time of year. Of course, feel free to substitute or add some of your own favorites in place of those listed. Just try to keep the overall quantity and size of the vegetable pieces constant so the soup will cook uniformly and quickly. And be sure to include the onion and garlic for the aromatic flavors they contribute, and the tomatoes for their color, sweetness, and juices.
The variety of differently colored vegetables in this minestrone makes the soup especially beautiful. To highlight all those colors, I prepare saffron-colored pasta shells that are about the same size as the vegetables. The bright yellow pasta also adds a perfect aromatic complement to the protein I add to this version of minestrone.
That protein, of course, comes in the form of clams. The idea of adding seafood to minestrone may seem odd to you. But you'll find it done in many coastal Italian regions, and the shellfish add a delightfully bright, refreshingly briny flavor to the soup.
You can find live clams in season virtually year round. Buy yours from a reputable seafood market or the seafood department of a good supermarket. They should have a fresh, clean scent with unbroken, non-gaping shells. You can keep them in your refrigerator for up to four days if you store them in an open container covered with a clean, damp cloth; do not seal in an airtight container or put them on ice.
To add even more flavor to each bowlful of soup, I include here a simple recipe for Sauce Pistou, a southern French cousin of Italian pesto. A puree of fresh basil, garlic, and olive oil, it blossoms with aromatic flavor on contact with the hot broth, announcing even before your first spoonful that springtime has really arrived.
Minestrone With Clams And Saffron Pasta Recipe
Saffron Pasta Shells
Pinch saffron threads
2 ounces dry pasta shells
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 clove garlic
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup peeled, seeded, and diced fresh tomato
1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) yellow squash or zucchini
1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) zucchini
1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) eggplant
1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) organic celery
1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) organic red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch organic yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) fennel bulb
1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) organic carrot
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 quarts organic chicken broth
1 cup diced (3/4 inch) organic baking potato
1 bay leaf, 1 sprig fresh basil, and 1 sprig fresh parsley, tied together with kitchen screen to make a bouquet garni
2 pounds fresh littleneck clams in the shell, scrubbed clean under cold running water, soaked in lightly salted water for 15 minutes, drained
1/2 cup canned, rinsed, and drained garbanzo beans
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
First, make the Saffron Pasta Shells: In a saucepan, bring salted water to a boil with the saffron. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, tender but still chewy, following the manufacturer's suggested cooking time. Drain and rinse in cold water. Transfer to a bowl and lightly drizzle and toss with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Next, prepare the Sauce Pistou: In a blender, combine the olive oil, garlic, and salt. Process until the garlic is minced. With the motor running, add the basil leaves and continue to process until pureed. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.
For the Minestrone, in a stockpot, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, diced tomato, squash, zucchini, eggplant, celery, bell peppers, fennel, carrot, and saute, stirring frequently, until glossy, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir in the flour and continue to cook until the mixture is golden in color, about 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, broth, potatoes, bay leaf, basil, and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are al dente, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the clams, cover, and cook until they open, 4 to 5 minutes. Uncover and remove the bouquet garni and any clams that haven't opened. Stir in the garbanzos and Saffron Pasta Shells and simmer until they are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Ladle the soup into 4 soup plates or bowls and drizzle with Sauce Pistou and extra-virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.
Article: Copyright © Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Recipes: "Minestrone Soup with Clams and Saffron Pasta Recipe
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