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I’m the weirdo who brings a container to Christmas dinner to scavenge the ham bone. I used to get the side-eye, but now the ones who know me will pack it away for me before cleaning the roasting pan.

Why do I get all excited about the part of holiday dinners that goes into the trash?

One word: Minestra. Synonymous with legit comfort food.

Traditional minestra is a zuppa, which doesn’t exactly mean soup, like certain Americanized “Italian” food chains would like you to believe. It loosely translates as “dippable,” meaning you eat it with your utensil in one hand and bread in the other to mop up all the goodness. Growing up, we used to call eggs over easy with toast “inzuppe e mange” (zoop eh mahnj) which means “dip and eat.”

Old world minestra is more of a saucy stew of greens, beans and bits of ham, but I’m ruining it adapting it as a soup because I like it that way, and I like to stock my freezer with these types of things. Cut back on the liquid if you’re a purist.

Let’s make some.

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Slow Cooker Ham Bone Minestra

bone of a ham shoulder roast, with some meat still on
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 c cannelini beans, soaked
1c pinto beans, soaked
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
water to cover
4 giant handfuls greens (kale or escarole), chopped
grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano

Fun additions

sliced fennel
small pasta, like ditalini or campanelle (If you find either of these shapes gluten free, let me know!)
fresh parsley
pinch of nutmeg

Set aside the grated cheese and greens. Combine all other ingredients into a slow cooker, ham bone first. Cook on high until it begins to bubble, then switch to low for 5-6 hours until what’s left of the ham is falling off of the bone.

Remove the ham bone onto a plate.

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Remove and shred the meat, and return the meat to the pot. Add the greens. Once the greens are soft but still green, it’s ready! Serve with plenty of grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Regginao and your favorite Italian bread or cornbread.

Freeze the rest and pull them out when you’re having a bad day.


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