4 small ears of corn, husks and silk removed
1 large zucchini
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped fennel
3 large plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2½ quarts (10 cups) vegetable stock
3 sprigs Italian parsley
1 cup tubettini
2 tablespoons minced dill
4 large fresh basil leaves, finely chopped or 1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Grated parmigiano or pecorino romano (optional)
Cut off the ears of the corn by holding each cob up on its wider end and cutting from top to bottom with a sharp knife as close the cob as possible (if the cobs are really long, this will be easier to do by first breaking each one in half). Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and cut each half into ½-inch-thick half-moons.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 2 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the celery and continue cooking until the celery is soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Toss in the fennel and tomatoes and cook until the fennel is soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Pour in the stock and add the corn, zucchini, and parsley. Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, and bring it to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients, except the grated cheese, and stir. Lower the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta and vegetables are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls, sprinkle some parmigiano or pecorino on top, and serve hot with fresh Italian bread.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
TIP: To wash leeks, cut them open down the center and wash them thoroughly under cool running water. Or slice them and let them sit in a big bowl of cool water for a few minutes, squishing them around once in a while, then scoop them out.