Trying to decide what to serve a group of Newfoundland dog owners, handlers, judges, and club members at our Regional Specialty Show is no easy task. February is typically cold and rainy weather; thankfully, the show is held indoors. This will be our second year hosting the ringside luncheon. Last year, everyone seemed to appreciate having the choice between a comforting, hot bowl of Barefoot Contessa's Chicken Pot Pie, and Bon Appetit's Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup...
This weekend, I pulled out a stack of favorite cookbooks and and started planning Friday's menu...
Tyler's Ultimate is one of my favorite cookbooks, and his Hunter's Minestrone instantly called my name. After perusing recipes all afternoon, I sent John to the store for a few missing ingredients and we prepared a test batch. It definitely fits the bill as a thick, soul-warming version of Minestrone. The verdict: I'll be making a double or triple batch for our fellow Newf lovers on Friday. I will substitute a mix of sweet and spicy Italian sausage, rather than the bulk pork sausage, and use smaller rigatoni than pictured here.
Tyler Florence, Tyler's Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Anytime; also featured on Food Network's Soup& Sammy
2 quarts chicken stock
1 head garlic, halved
1/2 pound small rigatoni
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 fresh sage leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
3/4 pound loose sweet Italian pork sausage
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed plum tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 (28-ounce) cans cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves, finely minced
Coarsely ground black pepper
12 slices baguette
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Combine the stock and halved garlic head in a big saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes to give the stock a nice, garlicky taste; strain out the garlic. Keep warm.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the rigatoni.
Pour 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the sage, rosemary and thyme and warm the oil over medium heat to infuse it with the flavor of the herbs, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the sausage with the side of a big spoon until well browned. Chop the carrots, celery, and onion in a food processor. Add to the saucepan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.
To the pan with the sausage stir in the crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, cannelloni beans, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Cook the rigatoni in the boiling water for 6 minutes; it should be slightly underdone. Drain and stir into the simmering soup (I kept the pasta separate, mixed with just a little of the soup broth to keep it moist, and added it to each serving bowl as needed. This prevents it from overcooking). Add the parsley, and salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste. Discard the bay leaf and herb sprigs.
To serve, preheat the broiler. Put the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and float a couple of the baguette slices on top.
Serves 10 and freezes well, without the pasta.
In addition to Tyler's Minestrone, I'm planning on offering Hearty Beef Stew (The New Best Recipe, by Cook's Illustrated). Both will pair nicely with toasted baguette slices.
We'll also bake an assortment of breakfast treats, to go with coffee and Tyler's Ultimate Hot Chocolate - Cherry Scones, Ricotta Orange Pound Cake, and Banana Muffins with Mascarpone Cream Frosting.