Would you like to live to be over 100 years old? Well then, have I got a soup for you!
There’s been a great deal of press about these Blue Zones around the world, where a large percentage of the inhabitants live to be well over 100 years old. It’s truly fascinating. It makes you stop and think about their lifestyles and their diet, since this seems to be what they attribute mostly to their longevity.
I am especially intrigued by the village in Sardinia that’s considered a Blue Zone. I love that they attribute their long life to the Mediterranean diet, close ties to family and friends, laughter, movement (they are shepherds who walk 8 miles a day and women whose “workout” is kneading bread, gardening and cooking all day), napping and red wine. How fabulous! I can’t help but think about my grandparents, who lived to be over 100 years old, and for the most part, this is how they lived.
While this recipe for minestrone soup is probably very similar to your own variation, I share it with you as another delicious, healthy soup that I think your family and friends will enjoy. It’s versatile, so you can always add the freshest, seasonal ingredients of your choice. To keep it as traditional as possible, include beans and fregola, a tiny semolina pasta that is popular in Sardinia. If you can’t find fregola, Israeli couscous or acini di pepe pasta will do just fine. However, you might shave a year off your long life, if you don’t use fregola! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
For the purpose of spelling out the basics of this soup, I stuck very closely to the original recipe from the Blue Zones website, which by the way, has great recipes on it. The only change I made was that I only used one type of bean, chickpeas, and I added savoy cabbage. As I mentioned before, add whatever vegetables you like. You can’t mess this up. I’m even going to say that if you forget to soak your beans overnight, use canned, added during the last half hour of cooking. OR…the quick soaking method is fabulous if you have the extra hour. Cover beans with water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off. Then let them sit in the hot water for one hour. Drain and you are ready to go.
Enjoy, and as we say in Italian “cent’anni.” Translation:…..”may you live to be 100 years old!”
RECIPE: serves 8 to 10
1 and 1/2 cups of dried beans of your choice (always include some chickpeas if possible….very Sardinian)
7 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped ( about a cup)
2 medium celery stalks, chopped ( about a half a cup)
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 28 ounce can of Italian crushed tomatoes (San Marzano, please)
3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups chopped fennel (include tops)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 TBSP. chopped fresh basil (I use at least double this)
2/3 cup of Sardinian fregola (or Israeli couscous of acini de pepe pasta)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
I added one small head of savoy cabbage, shredded
- Soak the beans overnight or use the quick soak method. Drain in a colander, set in the sink and rinse well.
- Warm 3 to 4 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring often, until soft, not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
- Stir in tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley, and basil, as well as the drained beans. Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything os submerged by and inch or two.
- Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the bean are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets to thick, for about 1 1/2 hours. Add any vegetables as you see fit. Some vegetables take longer than others. I added the cabbage when the soup had an hour to go.
- Stir in the pasta, salt and pepper. Add up to 2 cups of water if the soup seems too dry. Continue simmering, uncovered until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. **You can also cook the pasta separately, al dente, and then add it to the soup.
- Pour 1 TBSP of olive oil into each dish. Add the soup and top with the grated cheese.
**For a stronger tomato taste ( which I like) add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste when you add the tomatoes.