Our Favorite Italian-American Grandma Dishes for Any Day
With extra vegetables
Our roster for today’s recipes is straight out of an Italian-American kitchen. We’ll start with a hearty minestrone soup with some detail to enhance flavor (like caramelizing aromatics). Then we’re moving on to one of our favorites — greens and beans — via pressure cooker. This recipe is followed by a dish that Mark’s mother used to make weekly, pan-cooked peppers and onions — with or without sausage; you can also amp the dish with vinegar or paprika. And finally, for our budget recipe, we’ve got the simplest of simple, one-pot pasta with butter and parmesan. Don’t be shy about using your best pasta for the last one — one that takes a little longer to cook but really delivers when it comes to the finished dish. Whole wheat pasta is a plus here, too. As usual, all recipes are available to members; thank you so much for your support.
Here’s an old-fashioned soup that you’d find in a red-sauce restaurant that might remind you of a soup a mother or a grandmother might make to make you feel better — a backup to chicken noodle (apparently it’s been around since at least the 1870s, and perhaps as early as the Roman Empire). But we can’t help but wonder if minestrone might be better for you — not just in terms of ingredients, but skill-building if you’re teaching yourself to cook.
Here’s an easily varied vegetable soup that helps you start thinking of vegetables in groups: aromatics (garlic, onions, celery, and carrots); hard or sturdy; tender (like zucchini or green beans); and greens. So if you look at the ingredient list that way, you can mix and match vegetables depending on what you have in the fridge or what looks best in the store.
To give the soup even more flavor, cut the rind from a piece of parmesan cheese and add it along with the water. Or cut a piece of rind into small chunks; it will soften enough to eat and is a real treat.
Time: About 1 hour
Makes: 4–6 servings
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium celery stalk, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large potatoes (or turnips, peeled, if you like) and cut into small chunks
1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; don’t bother to drain)
1 medium zucchini, cut into small chunks
1 bunch sturdy leafy greens like kale or escarole, chopped
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish
1. Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften and begin to darken around the edges, 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Add the potatoes and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are all brown in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. Add 6 cups of water, stirring to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, bring the mixture to a boil, and then lower the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily. Cook, stirring every now and then, until the tomatoes break down a bit, about 15 minutes.
3. Add the zucchini and greens and raise the heat if necessary to keep the mixture at a steady bubble. Cook until all the vegetables are very tender, another 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve topped with the cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
Pressure Cooked Beans and Greens
The dish is about as elemental as it gets and is a welcome (often necessary) way to use up your greens when you have more than you can handle. Mark uses the pressure cooker here because it’s lightning-fast; of course, this dish is equally good cooked in a normal pot, it’ll just take longer.