Simple Minestra a.k.a. “Meneste”

Submitted by Nina Ricciardi Quirk of Worcester. She picks up her copy of Edible Boston at Whole Foods in Bellingham. I ate this minestra one day at my Italian-American grandmother’s house, and it gave me an instant feeling of nostalgia, even though I’d never had it before. My great-grandmother, Fortunata, had taught her this dish; she used to make it differently, using pork hocks before she and her family immigrated to Worcester from Caserta Vecchia, near Naples, but adapted the recipe to what was more readily available here. I usually make a huge pot, give away one half to a family member, eat some, and freeze the rest. Even my 2- and 3-year-old boys love it!

Serves 4-6 people.

INGREDIENTS 1½ pounds country style pork ribs 1 pound bone-in, center-cut pork chops 2 sticks of pepperoni (without added nitrates or preservatives), cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 4-5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped 1 large head green cabbage, cut into large chunks 1 large head escarole or 2 small heads, washed and roughly chopped (save the hearts and core for salad) ⅛ cup fennel seeds Few pinches of red pepper flakes Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving Garlicky lemon-olive oil vinaigrette, for the escarole hearts

DIRECTIONS Arrange all of the meat at the bottom of a very large pot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, the red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and the garlic. Cover with cold water by an inch, bring to a boil, and cook 35 minutes. Skim the foam from the top and discard.

Add the cabbage, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about an hour, stirring only occasionally. Taste the broth and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Add the escarole, season again, and cook for another 30 minutes or so. The greens should be wilted and the pork falling apart.

Discard the bones, being careful to remove them all before serving. Sprinkle freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano over each bow. Serve with crusty bread, and the escarole hearts tossed with a garlicky vinaigrette, on the side.