Dairy-Free / Dinner / Gluten-Free / Savory / Soup / Vegan / Vegetarian

Winter Minestrone

Winter Minestrone 2Oh hey, health.  So nice to see you.

So generally, I don’t really think of myself as a “classic vegetable soup” kind of person.  I think I have bad memories of eating canned vegetable soup as a child, which I remember tasting like, well, a can.  It’s weird because I’m pretty sure we had canned soup rarely, if ever; but clearly those few occasions made an impression.  Give me a legume-based soup any day.  Pureed soup of squash or split pea?  I’m in.  But a veggie-laden minestrone?  I’d probably hesitate before jumping into that.

This soup, however, is chock-full of veggie goodness (obviously) and is so so delicious.  I also love that eating something that tastes so hearty and delicious is also good for you.  Plus, this recipe makes a big batch of soup which is perfect for larger groups or lots of leftovers.  (That’s the whole point of soup, right?)

Winter Minestrone 1That’s like the holy grail of feeling healthy right there.

This recipe is easy, and can be customized to include whatever veggies you like.  Feel free to sub in a different kind of squash if you’re not feeling the butternut, or replace it with potatoes.  You could certainly use a different kind of dark leafy green besides spinach — kale would probably be delicious.  Leave out the pasta, or use rice pasta if you’re not into gluten.  And of course, feel free to leave out the pancetta and swap veggie stock for the chicken stock if you want to make this vegetarian/vegan.  My only notes would be to keep the mirepoix as the base (this is carrots + celery + onion), keep the tomatoes for depth, and add some sort of legume for thickness (kidney, giant white beans, or white northern beans would all be good), oh, and don’t leave out the wine + pesto at the end — it really makes a difference in the flavor (I’m sure red wine would also work in place of the white wine).

Winter MinestroneWinter Minestrone

slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s cookbook, Foolproof

  • olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, diced small
  • 1-2 large onions, diced
  • bunch of carrots, diced (I just dice up the amount that comes in the TJ’s bag)
  • 1 head of celery, base and tops removed, diced
  • 1/2 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh, or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 28 oz can chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups cooked pasta (I used orrecchiete because it was the smallest shape I had on hand, but any other shape would work well.  Small shapes like tubetti, or any of the piccolini pastas, might be preferable.)
  • 1 bag or bunch spinach leaves, washed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (a kind you’d want to drink)
  • 2 tbsp store bought pesto (I used the TJ’s brand)
  • Optional: freshly grated parmesan, romano, or pecorino cheese for serving
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add pancetta and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, salt and pepper, and saute until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, and cover with chicken stock (use your judgment here as to how much stock you want to use — I add just enough to cover everything).  Add a bit more salt and pepper, then bring to a boil.  Once it reaches a boil, lower to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  3. Discard bay leaf.  Add beans and pasta and cook through.  Determine whether you need to add more stock at this point (the soup should be pretty thick).
  4. Just before serving, toss in spinach until just wilted.  Stir in wine and pesto.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Serve with freshly grated cheese and/or crusty bread.

I know this kind of looks like a lot of ingredients and steps, but it’s actually very simple and doesn’t really require much measuring of ingredients at all.  So chill out and let’s get cooking.

Winter Minestrone Prep

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