Minestra di Salsicce, Riso, e Ceci
Region: Italy, Lazio
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
There are many thick soups in the Roman countryside called minestra, that nearly always contain a grain (rice), a legume (chickpeas), and a small amount of meat (sausage). The combination could as easily be rice, lentils, and pancetta. Black kale is the name of a dark-leaved cultivar also known as Tuscan kale and cavolo nero in Rome.
(Photo: Clifford A. Wright)
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 2 1/2 hours
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casing removed, meat crumbled
1 cup dry red wine
5 cups water or more as needed
1/2 pound (1 cup) dried chickpeas
1 bunch (about 3/4 pound) black kale, heaviest portion of stems removed, sliced
Bouquet garni, tied in cheesecloth, consisting of parsley, sage, bay leaf, thyme, and marjoram
1/2 cup short or medium grain rice, such as Arborio or Calrose
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for sprinkling
1. In an earthenware stewpot (preferably), heat the olive oil over medium heat then cook, stirring, the pancetta, onion, and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes. (If using earthenware and if it is not flameproof, or if you don't know, you will need to use a heat diffuser. Earthenware heats up slower but retains its heat longer than non-earthenware casseroles. When using earthenware, food may cook slower at first and then cook very quickly while retaining its heat, so adjust accordingly).
2. Add the sausage and cook until it browns, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine and once it is almost evaporated add the water, chickpeas, kale, and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are tender but there is still at least 2 cups of liquid left, about 2 hours. Add the rice and salt and cook until there is no liquid left and the rice is soft, about 10 minutes. Discard the bouquet garni, correct the seasoning, and serve with the cheese.