The perfect winter minestrone.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Big shocker: Bridget's sharing yet another soup recipe (and looking suspiciously like the last one--I promise this is a new picture, a new soup!).  If it's not a soup, it's a chili here in my food archives, I'm afraid.  At least this time of year in the frozen tundra-like state I'm currently living in.  Do the southern California readers of this blog just skip posts like these?  Skip these posts and head to the beach with coconut-scented sunscreen in hand?  I hate you all.

I saw a picture of this soup on Instagram the other day and as someone who's always game for a soup, as we've already established, my interest was piqued.  Add to that, I saw the word Ina so... it was good as made in my dutch oven right then and there.

And who doesn't have chicken broth, celery, carrots, onions, and some canned beans at the ready most of the time?  You?  Get thyself to the store and keep those stocked at all times.  Everything good in this life starts with a mirepoix (you like how I got fancy there?).  This is no exception.

I changed it a bit, surprise surprise.  Another reason why soup will always win.  The butternut squash got swapped out for some sweet potato because really, the difference isn't huge, and who in their right mind enjoys working with a butternut squash?  Not I.  I once hacked at one with a tool whose name escapes me now but imagine a kitchen-approved sledgehammer and there you have it.  I can't bring myself to buy it already cubed from the vegetable section because, I don't really know, but I'd have saved myself a lot of grief that day.  And while spinach is great in a hot soup, I am die-hard about cabbage in my minestrone.  Growing up, my Mom's always had cabbage and while Ina can generally do no wrong, I do believe the soup was elevated a bit by that substitution (did I just change Ina?  Is that sinful?  Like editing Shakespeare or something?  My apologies.).  Oh, and the pasta.  I couldn't find whatever little pasta she referred to so it was a mix of some other teeny noodle and I also added farro.  I know.  I really took some liberties with this one.  It was delicious though.

I doubled it and had some for lunch the next day with some chopped chicken, so that'd be a nice substitution too.  Particularly if you have teenage boys who sometimes come to the kitchen all wide-eyed until you throw meat in their direction.  You know.

Winter Minestrone Soup
serves 6-8

4 ounces pancetta, 1/2 inch diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 cups chopped carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups diced celery (3 stalks)
2 1/2 cups butternut squash (or sweet potato!)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 26-ounce box diced tomatoes, such as Pomi
6 to 8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
salt and peper
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (or cabbage!)
1/2 cup good dry white wine
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto (this is amaaaaazing in it)
freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving

Heat olive oil over medium 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 till the vegetables begin to soften.  Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the stock, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Discard the bay leaf.  Add the beans and cooked pasta (I cooked the pasta at this point, and it was fine!) and heat through.  The soup should be thick but if it's too thick, add more chicken stock.  (I added the chopped cabbage at this point, about half a head?)

Just before serving, reheat the soup and add the spinach.  Stir.  Cook till leaves are wilted (this takes no time at all).  Stir in the white wine and pesto.  Depending on the saltiness of the stock, add some more.  Serve alongside garlic bruschetta, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Recipe source: Ina Garten


  1. It looks great! Although it's supposed to be summer here, the cold snap has meant I've been making a lot of hearty soups. I've bookmarked this one, like you I can't bring myself to buy the ready chopped vegetables and I take uhh...'liberties' with the ingredients based on what I can and cannot easily chop!

  2. This looks so yummy! Do you think it would work making it in a crock pot? Haha obviously I'm not a cook or I would know that ;)

  3. This soup looks so good!!! I'm such a soup snob, but I think I would really like this. I may just need to try it this weekend. Happy Friday!!!

  4. That looks so good! Because I love butternut squash, I had to figure out a way to work with it. What I do is, I have my husband cut the thing into quarters (it's way too hard for me to cut!). Then I put a quarter on a plate and cover it, then microwave it for 7 minutes and then scoop it out, it's delicious! I have one every other day at least.

  5. First off, your writing cracks my shizz up. Funny (duh), with a wonderful rhythm to it. And conversational/chill in the best sort of way. We're slogging through the seemingly endless snow and cold here in Chicago; weirdly, it's been gettin' me down this week. Your humor was a very welcome and great pick-me-up this morning!

    I'm with ya on this soup -- in fact, seduced by the wonder that is INA and the allure of pesto in it (pure brilliance!)(but of course! it's Ina!), I made it last week. My alterations were adding a parmesan rind and subbing parsnip for the squash. I agree with you on how dreamy-delicious it was. My previous fave Ina soup was her lentil vegetable soup. This one may be even more wondrous.

    Thanks again for a great post!

    1. thanks so much jennifer!!

      i'm going to try her lentil veg now -- but i can't imagine it beating out this one. (in other news, i use a giada recipe for my lentil soup usually... try it!)

    2. Sweet! Thanks for the hot tip on the Giada recipe; I'll give it a test drive this week! I do think the mighty minestrone recipe edges out the Ina lentil vegetable soup recipe by a small margin. Like her addition of pesto to this one, she has a zippy ingredient in the lentil one -- red wine vinegar! -- and it makes quite a difference. Gives it a subtle tang and kinda wakes it up. I add a bit more than the 1 or 2 Tbsp it calls for.
      Stay warm, and happy cooking!

  6. And isn't it nice that Trader Joe's has the already chopped up mirepoix mix? For those nights when you don't want to have to worry about cutting your hand off (am I right?).

    And no, this Californian does not skip soups posts. This Californian never skips soup posts (just the meat in this one).

    1. glad to hear it wasn't totally lost on the so-cal'ers!

  7. HA I have the exact same relationship with butternut squash. Bought it once- whole, proceeded to hack at it with a peeler of some sort, ate it...refuse to buy it pre-cubed and am still to scarred to buy it whole. Even in the shuk they bring in GIANT ones and hack them up for you. I just can't.

  8. So I totally made this...I went with your suggestions and it was PERFECT! Thanks for posting!!

  9. So I was kind of looking forward to making this. It's healthy and looks good. I did the 13 bean soup thing and mixed in some sour cream. I.DIE. It was SO good!!! Everyone. I mean everyone loved it. My 2.5 year old ate more than me, and my 15 month old scarfed it down. Thank YOU! :)


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