Sicilian Pasta Soup with Lentils and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
It has almost been so over-done now, this thing of "rediscovering" so-called "peasant food" or "cucina povera" as it is called in Italy- the "poor peoples food" that foodies love to brag to their friends with now and then. The truth of the matter is, that a good cook will make you an exquisite meal out of even the humblest of produce. My mom used to create meals, from next to nothing, and keep all 9 of us kids fed and healthy and I have never forgotten the lessons I learned from her.
This is my version of one of my favorite Sicilian noodle soups- a little different to what my mother would make (well, actually quite a lot different!), but delicious, inexpensive and easy to make. And I somehow thing you may enjoy it too...
I started out with some finely chopped bacon, celery, onion and carrot, which I sautéed together in, you guessed it, a dry Teflon pan. This will bring the flavors out of those simple ingredients and make sure that you get a tasty broth for your soup. Ok- the other ingredient that I used was kohlrabi... I still have a whole half of one left over- and with this kind of soup, you just use whatever vegetables you have handy. The basic must-have for a minestra of this sort are carrots, celery, some kind of leafy greens and of course some kind of pasta. I used both the kohlrabi itself and the leaves for this. I would say, a 1" slice of kohlrabi cut into a dice and 1 leaf per person... that is more than enough. Once those ingredients are starting to cook, add a little finely chopped garlic, the kohlrabi cubes and leaves and the lentils. I used one handful of lentils per person. Cover them barely with water and let them boil for 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, a little thyme and a squeeze of tomato paste.
Now is the time to add your noodles. You can use an kind of short noodle that you prefer, but I always liked the short bits of spaghetti the best- and the trick my mom taught me to snap them up really quickly. Take a small handful of spaghetti and roll it up in a tea towel. Holding both ends tightly, lay the spaghetti on the edge of your table or kitchen counter and pull it over the edge, so that the pasta snaps but the pieces remain in the towel... it's a lot of fun actually! Add the pasta into the vegetable broth and a few small slices of sun-dried tomato. Reduce the heat and let the pasta cook for 10-12 minutes.
After this time, the pasta should be almost ready- so taste it for salt and adjust your seasoning if necessary, and add a nice splash of olive oil. Wait until you are ready to serve the soup as the nice fresh aroma of the oil would be lost if you added it earlier. Serve piping hot with some peperoncino or Tabasco and enjoy with a nice glass of chilled white Corvo... delicious!