Farm Lunch Minestrone

Photo by Tim Wilcox

Photo by Tim Wilcox

Serves 4–6 hungry farmers as a main meal.

11:00 Put ½ pound brown lentils in a small pot and cover with 2 inches water. Add 1½ teaspoons salt and 2–3 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.

11:05 Heat a large pot of water for pasta.

11:10 Make a battuto: Finely dice 1 medium onion, 1 carrot, 4 cloves of garlic, and 1 stalk of celery (if you’ve got it) or some parsley. Sauté gently in a capacious skillet in olive oil over medium heat. (If you’re not serving vegetarians, add 2 ounces of diced bacon or uncased sweet Italian sausage to this mixture.)

11:30 When everything is nice and rosy, add 1 can of San Marzano tomatoes or 1 quart of homemade tomato preserves. By this point, your pasta water should be boiling, so you might as well salt it (2 tablespoons) and get the pasta cooking. I like to use ditalini or other small shapes. Don’t forget to check on the lentils to make sure they are actually cooking and have plenty of water.

11:35 Wash 2 bunches of Tuscan kale or another green. Kale, chard, or spinach work equally well, but not broccoli rabe or mustard greens. Strip out the tough center rib and coarsely chop the kale. Add it to the tomato sauce, but don’t overcook the pasta, which should be done by now. Strain it into a colander when it’s al dente, then return to the pot you cooked it in and drizzle with a little oil (2–3 tablespoons) to keep pasta from sticking. 

11:50 By this point, the lentils should be most of the way there. Taste them to make sure. There should be several cups of rich broth left in the lentil pot. Add the lentils and broth to the tomatoes and check for flavor. It should taste salty. If it doesn’t, add salt.

11:55 Heat 1 stick of butter in a small saucepan and add 1 bunch of chopped fresh sage. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes to infuse. It’s OK if it browns a little, but don’t burn it. Meanwhile, set the table, make a pot of coffee, and get the parmesan out of the fridge. If you find any bread in the house, you can put that out, too.

11:59 Add the kale, lentil, and tomato mixture to the pasta in the pasta pot. Pour in the butter, taking care not to add the sage leaves. I find the sage itself to be quite bitter, but the aroma to be intoxicating. The mixture should be fairly brothy but not soupy.