Winter is still here. For many parts of the country, it is more extreme than others. Here in the Bay Area, it has been relatively mild, except for very chilly evenings. You know what that means – time for soup.
There is something satisfying, gratifying and comforting about making soup. The combination of flavors, the simmering and the beautiful fragrance that is exudes throughout the house is simply wonderful. Recently I purchased the Ina Garten cookbook – “Foolproof, Recipes You CanTrust”. And oh how I trust Ina. She has honestly never steered me wrong. I have collected all her books and adore each one. Her recipes are straightforward, simply and extremely tasty. My bucket list includes meeting Ina one day in person. Smile.
Her recipe for Winter Minestrone was no exception. It was divine and the flavors were even better the next day. Honestly the only thing that I changed in this recipe was to double the pesto and added a parmesan rind to the soup. It is a trick that I do with most soups. The flavor is enhanced and the creamy salty quality is there. Simply remove the rind prior to serving. You will want to decide if you want more or less pesto in the version you make.
The original recipe calls for it to be served with a garlic bruschetta which I opted not to make. Instead, I was craving beer bread and whipped up a batch to serve along side this delicious soup. Bon Appetite!
Winter Minestrone Soup
4 ounces Pancetta, ½ inch dice
1 ½ C. Yellow Onion, diced
2 C. Diced Carrots
2 C. Dice Celery
2 ½ C. Diced and peeled butternut squash
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 teaspoon Fresh Thyme leaves, chopped
26 ounce Canned or boxed chopped tomatoes
6 to 8 C. Chicken stock
1 Bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 (15 ounce) can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 C. Cooked small paste, (Tubetti)
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
½ C. Dry white wine
4 Tablespoons pesto
1 parmesan rind
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.
Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt, parmesan rind and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, add more chicken stock. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, and toss. Cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste.
Serve large shallow bowls of soup. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and serve hot.
NOTE: To cook the pasta, put 1 cup of pasta into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook according to the directions on the package, drain, and set aside. You can make this soup ahead and reheat it before serving. It will need to be re-seasoned.