The national soup! Many recipes, many variations: we think you will really like this one. Done correctly, it has a wonderful creaminess to it, without pureeing the beans.
Note: this recipe calls for canned cannellini beans. You can also use dried beans -- see "dried beans option" below.
In a large stockpot heat the butter and the olive oil. As soon as the butter is melted, add the garlic When it starts to sizzle, add the onion. Cook, and stir, until the onion becomes transparent.
Add the diced carrots and the leeks, and then two minutes later add the celery, potatoes, zucchini and shredded greens. Cook for eight minutes, giving the ingredients a stir now and then.
Add the broth, the parmesan crusts, the bay leaf, the tomatoes and a teaspoon of salt.
Cover and cook at a strong simmer or a low boil. Cook for two hours. Cook the soup until is fairly thick; watery minestrone is the equivalent of a disaster. If the soup gets too thick, add water.
Add the canned beans, several twists of the pepper mill, and cook for fifteen minutes more. Remove the parmesan crusts; add the fresh parmesan, stir, and serve!
>>Dried bean option:
Examine the beans and get rid of dirt. Put them in a bowl or container and fill with enough cold water to cover them several inches. Let them sit in a cold place for 8-10 hours or more.
>>another option: Quick-soaking beans. If you do not have time for the long soaking, out the beans, after cleaning, into a saucepan and cover with water, covering by at least two inches over the beans. Put on high heat. Once the water starts boiling, continue the boiling for one minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for an hour, uncovered. Drain. The beans are ready. This does really work.
After adding the parmesan crusts, bay leaf, tomatoes and salt (see above) cook at a strong simmer for a half hour. Then add the beans and several twists of the pepper mill. Cook for another two hours or so: until the beans are soft and the soup is thick. If too thick, add water.
When the beans are tender, remove the parmesan crusts, add the fresh parmesan, stir and serve.