Roasted Red Pepper Minestrone
- 6 large red bell peppers
- 3 heads garlic
- 1/4 cup EVOO, plus more for drizzling
- 4 ounces smoky bacon or pancetta, chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 large fresh bay leaf
- 1 fresh red chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 starchy potato, peeled and chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped
- 8 cups chicken stock
- One 14-ounce can red beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 3/4 cup ditalini or other small pasta, or broken thin spaghetti
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- Crusty Italian bread, for serving
- Grated pecorino, for serving
Heat the broiler. Arrange the bell peppers on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until the skins are blackened. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover and let cool. Peel and seed the peppers. Puree 4 peppers in a food processor with any juices that collected in the bowl. Reserve the remaining 2 peppers for another recipe, such as Make-Ahead Paella Casserole or Roasted Squash Chili Mac.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut off the top third of each garlic head, drizzle with EVOO and wrap in foil. Roast until tender. Reserve 2 heads for another recipe, such as Middle Eastern Garlic Roasted Chicken.
Heat the EVOO in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Add the rosemary, thyme, oregano, sliced garlic, carrots, celery, bay leaf, chile pepper, onions and potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Partially cover the pot and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze with the wine, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the kale and cook until wilted. Add the stock, beans and a few gratings of nutmeg and bring to a boil. Stir in the roasted pepper puree.
Bring the soup to a low boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. (Or cook the pasta separately in salted boiling water.) Meanwhile, squeeze the roasted garlic from 1 head into a bowl and mash with the butter. Slice the bread, then broil or grill until charred.
Divide the soup among shallow bowls. Top with pecorino and a drizzle of EVOO. Slather the bread with the garlic butter and serve with the soup.
Cook's Note: The soup (without the pasta) can be refrigerated for a make-ahead meal. Add the pasta before serving. The garlic can be roasted ahead of time and mashed with the butter, then refrigerated.