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This delicious vegetable soup is an important part of the Northern Italian repertoire. Naturally, there is a lot of latitude in a recipe such as this one in terms of ingredients and quantities. For personal preference I leave out green beans, peas and prosciutto, but I think leeks and spinach are inspired choices. I prefer pinto beans (fagioli borlotti) to canellini. I also don't use extravirgin oil, since it has a definite taste and body which is incompatible with this soup. I do add a big pat of butter to the regular olive oil. The method could be enhanced by adding the vegetables sequentially to the saute, each for two minutes. The broth could be a mixture of dilute beef, chicken or vegetable stock. The soup should not be served hothothot. It is best served comfortably warm in the winter, and in the summer it can be served tepid or even at room temperature, making it a pleasant alternative to pasta. If you let your soup cool down a bit, though, the rice will suck up all the broth and become too thick. Thus, if you add rice, cook it for only 5-10 minutes before turning off the heat, or even cook it separately and stir it in just before serving. My major criticisms, though, are two: 1) it needs to be cooked on low heat for MUCH longer, at least two hours before adding the beans. The vegetables should be soft; 2) the flavored oil is not traditional, particularly the oregano, and not helpful. Bean-based Tuscan soups may be served with flavored oil, but never alla milanese. A little chopped fresh basil added just before serving would be OK.

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MariaLuisa July 04, 2007
Minestrone Ala Milanese