Minestrone Alla Milanese

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1 pound dry white beans, washed
5 tbsp. oil
1 large onion, cut into neat cubes
1 stalk celery, cut into neat cubes 
2 or more cloves garlic, crushed
3 medium carrots, cut into neat cubes
8 oz. fresh or frozen peas 
1/2 pound unpeeled zucchini (cut into neat cubes) 
2 leeks, chopped (if available)
1/2 pound cabbage, shredded 
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary 
2 oz. salt pork or streaky bacon, cubed
1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped or one 16-oz. can tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 pints beef stock or bouillon
1 bayleaf, 2 parsley sprigs tied together
salt and pepper to taste 
1/2 cup uncooked rice or 4 oz. soup noodles
5 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Serves 10

1 Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover.

2 Cook the beans, covered, in the soaking water until tender, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Add a little more water if they become too dry. Drain and reserve.

3 Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy frying pan. In it sauté the onion, celery, garlic, carrot, fresh peas (if peas are frozen, add them later), zucchini, leeks and cabbage. Sauté them, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Stir in the rosemary. Remove from pan and reserve.

4 Sauté the diced salt pork or bacon in the same frying pan till crisp and brown. Drain on paper towel and reserve.

5 Into a large pot place the sautéed vegetables. Stir in the tomatoes, beef stock, bayleaf and parsley. Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes.

6 Add the rice or noodles, reserved beans and pork, and the peas (if frozen). Simmer, partially covered, 15-20 minutes longer. Discard bayleaf and parsley. Taste for seasoning.

Pass the grated parmesan separately.

Note: Reheats and freezes well.

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