By Mark Bittman
This soup, though delicious, is very basic: a small piece of meat, some common vegetables, a little pasta. But you can make it as elaborate as you like and even convert it to a stew by doubling the amount of solids.
This soup is fair game for whatever you have around, and almost every ingredient can be swapped for something else.
* 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 1/4 pound prosciutto, in one chunk or slice
* 4 cloves garlic
* 1 medium onion
* 1/2 pound greens, like spinach or kale
* 3/4 cup small pasta like orzo or small shells
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 1. Set 6 cups of water to boil to save time later. Put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the bottom of a medium saucepan, and turn the heat to medium. Chop the prosciutto (remove the fat if you must, but remember that it has flavor) into 1/4-inch or smaller cubes, and add to the oil. Brown, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, while you prepare the garlic, onion and greens.
* 2. Peel the garlic, and chop it roughly or leave it whole. Peel and chop onion. Wash and chop greens into bite-size pieces.
* 3. When the prosciutto is browned, add the garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to color, about 2 minutes. Add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become translucent, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the greens, and stir; then, add the 6 cups of boiling water. Stir in the pasta and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper; adjust heat so the mixture simmers.
* 4. When the pasta is done, taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve.
* Add more vegetables: thin-sliced carrots or chopped celery are obvious additions, but diced potatoes or turnips are also good.
* Vary the greens: shredded cabbage, collard, mustard or turnip greens are all appropriate.
* Swap starch for the pasta: try rice or barley, which may take a little longer to cook.
* Use tomatoes, either fresh, canned or paste. To use tomato paste, stir a couple of tablespoons into the sauteing vegetables before adding the water. Add tomatoes with the onions.
* Don't forget leftovers: this is a perfect place for a bit of chopped chicken or some vegetables.
* Try the chopped-up rind of hard cheese like Parmesan, which will soften during cooking and add great flavor.
Dan's note: do not overcook the prosciutto, it gets dry and tasteless. Be especially careful if the prosciutto comes in thin slices. Orzo is nice though. Tastes better the second day.