Stock will make much more flavorful soup, but if you do not have any handy, use canned broth or even water – the soup will still be quite good. When using canned stock for this soup, I always dilute it by half with water. In most cases, the flavor of the canned broth is too pronounced when taken straight and masks the fresh vegetal flavor of the other ingredients.
- Chicken Stock:
- 3 pounds chicken and/or capon wings, backs, necks, and giblets (not including the liver)
- 1 pound turkey wings
- 5 quarts water
- 1 large onion (about ½ pound), cut in half
- 3 medium carrots trimmed, peeled, and cut into 3 –inch lengths
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, quartered or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 10 sprigs fresh Italian parsley
- 12 black peppercorns
- 10 cups hot chicken stock or canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
- ½ ounce (about 2/3 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large Yukon Gold or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
- 2 small leeks, white parts only, trimmed, cleaned, and chopped (about 2 cups)
- 2 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled, and coarsely shredded (about 1 cup)
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound small (“fancy”) zucchini, washed and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
- 1 cup Arborio or other short-grain Italian rice
- ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
To make the chicken stock:
Rinse the poultry pieces in a colander under cold running water and drain them well. Place them in an 8- to 10 quart stockpot. Pour in the cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for a minute or two and you will see foam rising to the surface. Skim off and discard the foam, lower the heat to a strong simmer, and cook 1 hour, occasionally skimming the foam and fat from the surface.
Add the remaining ingredients except the salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to simmering. Cook, partially, covered, 2 to 3 hours, skimming the foam and fat from the surface occasionally.
Strain the broth through a very fine sieve, or a colander lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel. Season lightly with salt. To use the stock right away, wait a minute or two and spoon off the fat that rises to the surface. The last little traces of fat can be “swept” off the surface with a folded piece of paper towel. It is much easier, however, to remove the fat from chilled stock – the fat will rise to the top and solidify, where it can be easily removed.
To make the Zucchini and Potato Minestra:
Pour 1 cup of the hot stock over the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl. Let stand until the porcini are softened, about 20 minutes. Drain the porcinini, straining the soaking liquid through a coffee filter or a sieve lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth. Pour the strained soaking liquid into the remaining stock. Rinse the soaked mushrooms thoroughly to remove any sand and grit. Drain the mushrooms well and chop them fine.
Heat the olive oil in a deep, heavy 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to stick and are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. If necessary, adjust the level of heat to prevent the bits of potato that stick from getting too dark. Stir in the leeks and carrots, and season the vegetables lightly with salt, and cook, stirring, until the leeks are softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the hot stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, scraping up the bits of potato that stick to the pot. Adjust the level of heat to simmer and season the soup lightly with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in the zucchini cover the pot, and continue cooking until the potatoes and zucchini are very tender, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the rice. Cook, stirring well, until the rice is al dente – tender but still firm, about 14 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Stir the parsley into the soup and check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and sprinkle each serving with some of the grated cheese.