I get a daily email from La Cucina Italianain Italian – with a score of recipes. To my utter dismay, Conde Nast discontinued the English version of the magazine several years ago. (They have recently started up an online English version, but I think the Italian site is better. I have my browser auto-set to translate into English.)

But I digress…

A few days ago, the email had a soup they labelled Il minestrone sardo della longevità, la ricetta di famiglia. The Sardinian minestrone of longevity, the family recipe.

How could I resist?!?

The article goes on to explain the Sardinian diet is mostly vegetarian, and almost all locally produced. Not a lot of White Chocolate Mocha Creme Frappuccino’s or Double Quarter Pounder’s with Cheese being consumed.

The recipe concept sounded great – and we just happened to have dried fava beans, dried chickpeas, dried white beans, and Fregola. Fregola is a Sardinian toasted pasta about twice the size of pastina. [Our pantry ingredients can be a bit esoteric, at times…)

Knowing that my suburban-Portland-in-January ingredients wouldn’t pack the same punch as local Sardinian, I punched up the flavors with a couple of ingredients – I swapped out the original water for chicken broth and added a small package of diced pancetta and some of our home-grown oregano. To keep it vegetarian, a good vegetable broth could be used and omit the pancetta, and to make it vegan, just omit the added pecorino at the end.

As it was, it really came out good!


Sardinian Minestrone

adapted from La Cucina Italiana

  • 1/2 cup dried fava beans
  • 1/2 cup dried white beans
  • 1/3 cup dried chickpeas
  • 4 oz diced pancetta
  • 2/3 cup Sardinian fregola
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow or white onion
  • 2 medium-sized carrots
  • 2 stalks of medium-sized celery
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 cans diced tomatoess
  • 3 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 3 quarts chicken broth
  • chopped parsley
  • fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino cheese

Leave the legumes to soak for about 8 hours, in a large basin full of water, then drain and rinse them well.

Prepare the sauté in a pot, first heating three teaspoons of oil. Add the pancetta and cook a bit and then adding chopped onion, celery and carrot.

Cook for about five minutes, stirring often, and then add the chopped garlic (stirring for 20 seconds) and then diced tomatoes, potatoes and fennel, chopped parsley and basil and drained legumes.

Add enough broth to cover everything with about a finger, turn up the heat to the maximum and bring to a boil.

At this point reduce the heat and cook for about an hour and a half, until the legumes are soft, adding broth from time to time if necessary. Then pour the Sardinian fregola into the soup and cook for about ten minutes.

Once ready, the minestrone should be served in bowls with the addition of a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of pecorino cheese.

Suggestion: Depending on the season, other vegetables from the garden can be added, such as zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans. The variety of legumes can also be changed to taste.

The soup is really hearty, flavorful, and filling. It was perfect for a chilly January evening – and will be great for lunch the next few days. And, as the recipe suggests, it will be a perfect seasonal dish, swapping out various seasonal vegetables.

I see more of this in our future.