What are some of my best memories with my mom and my grandmother? Baking bread, watching pizza dough rise, rolling biscotti. I still have my mom's recipe boxes and turn to them often. My sleuth Caprice De Luca in STAGED TO DEATH comes from a large Italian family who likes to cook. Writing these mysteries returns me to my childhood in many ways...to family dinners with aunts, uncles and cousins...to those wonderful aromas wafting through the house...to the conversation, laughter and even arguments around the table. In the winter months, the aroma riding the air was grated garlic, tomatoes, broth simmering, and bay leaf steaming.
Soup and home-made baked bread went together so well! To give my readers a preview of one of the recipes in STAGED TO DEATH, here is a soup recipe I developed through the years that is taken from the book. I called it Nana's Minestrone--named for my Nana Rosalie and for Caprice's Nana Celia.
Nana's Minestrone Soup
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup medium pasta shells
1 cup onion (medium) chopped
1 clove of garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt (Salt to taste, depending on the type of broth you use.)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
A pinch to 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice (14-16 oz. each)
1 cup tomato juice
1 quart chicken broth
1 quart beef stock (If using your own, make sure it's full-bodied. You can add bouillon cubes to make it richer.)
1/2-1 lb. fresh endive or escarole, snipped or cut into 1/2 inch pieces (leafy green part only)
1 can Great Northern beans (drained)
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup shredded carrots (I buy them this way.)
1 cup shredded cabbage (I buy cabbage already shredded or slaw mixture)
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 cup cut green beans (fresh or frozen)
1 bay leaf
Romano cheese to sprinkle on top
Brown ground beef on medium in olive oil in 8 quart soup pot. When browned (no pink remaining), add chopped onion, grated garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper. Stir for a minute to mix flavors. Add tomato juice, tomatoes, salt and stir. Add beef stock and chicken broth, then bring to a boil. Stir in Northern beans, celery, carrots, zucchini, cabbage and green beans. (If using frozen green beans, bring soup to a boil again before adding endive.) Add endive last.
Bring soup to a boil again, add bay leaf, then simmer covered on low for 30 minutes. Bring to a boil again, remove bay leaf, add pasta, stir once more and cook until pasta is the way you like it, usually 10-12 minutes, without lid. Stir a few times while pasta is cooking. Sprinkle each serving with Romano cheese and serve with crusty bread. Makes 12-15 servings.
Read Karen's new mystery. Her sleuth Caprice De Luca loves to cook and is an animal lover too!
©2013 Karen Rose Smith
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