June 21: St. Aloysius Gonzaga
St. Aloysius Gonzaga showed extraordinary piety during his childhood, reciting numerous psalms and practicing many devotions.
Although his noble family had other plans for him, he became a Jesuit priest, inspired by accounts of Jesuit missionaries in India.
In Rome, he entered the novitiate and came under the spiritual direction of St. Robert Bellarmine. St. Aloysius took his vows in 1587, the same year a plague broke out in Rome.
With his fellow Jesuits, he tended to the sick and the dying in the streets and in the hospitals, washing and feeding them. Being in such close contact with plague victims, St. Aloysius contracted the disease. He died at the age of twenty-three.
One of Italy’s oldest dishes, the vegetable-rich minestrone soup — which may be embellished with meat — could predate the expansion of Rome into an empire. Such a soup was mentioned in Marcus Apicius’s cookbook, De re coquinaria, written in the fourth or fifth century A.D.
Through the ages, the basic recipe has remained fairly standard and includes onions, tomatoes, beans, and a soup stock. There is no set or established recipe, however. Making minestrone really depends on what seasonal vegetables the cook has on hand.
The chef suggests making this in large batches and freezing some to enjoy at other mealtimes. Only add the garnishes each time you plan to serve the soup.
Makes 3 quarts; serves 4 to 6
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced, or 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ head white cabbage, coarsely chopped
Pinch dried basil or another dried herb
One 14-ounce can cannellini or navy beans, drained
1 ½ to 2 quarts filtered or regular water
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup cubed butternut squash or sweet potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup spinach or kale, chopped, for garnish
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a medium-size stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onion, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
Add the garlic, and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add the cabbage, stirring well, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the dried herbs, and mix well. Add the beans and water, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and reduce the heat to low.
Add the tomatoes and squash or sweet potatoes, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash is soft but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice and the spinach or kale. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and Parmesan cheese. Serve hot.
Copyright 2019 Alexandra Greeley & Fernando Flores
This recipe is published in Cooking with the Saints and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the publisher, Sophia Institute Press.