Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Winter Minestrone

During our crazy tax season, the hours are long and we're working 7 days a week.  What little lunch break we get is mostly spent answering phone calls and e-mails, addressing questions from our staff, and trying to catch up on projects. We usually eat at our desks. There are no long lunch breaks at our favorite downtown spots!  Consequently, I try to make dinner meals that will provide enough leftovers for lunch or another dinner. A big pot of soup works for both!

This soup is very thick and hearty, it's almost a stew.  It is full of chunky vegetables, beans, pasta, and spinach.  The broth's flavor is enhanced by browned pancetta.   The pesto and white wine added at the end adds a multitude of flavors. Serve it with some garlic bread and you have a filling and nutritious meal.

For fair disclosure I must admit my Hubbers isn't a fan of this soup.  He dislikes squash, (though he loves pumpkin pie). I keep trying to hide squash in his meals as it is so good for us. He ate it but his bowl was full of uneaten squash pieces. I took the leftover minestrone to work the next day and he went out to lunch. Don't let his picky ways deter you, this is a great soup!

Once all the veggies are diced, making the soup is easy!

I make pesto from my basil crop each summer and freeze in mini muffin pans. Pesto can also be found in the grocer's frozen food section.

Winter Minestrone

Good olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, 1/2-inch diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced celery (3 stalks)
2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) diced peeled butternut squash
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
26 ounces canned or boxed chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
6 to 8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
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
1/2 cup good dry white wine
2 tablespoons pesto
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 kosher salt, and 1 1/2 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, add the spinach and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad).  Cook just until the leaves are wilted.  Stir in the white wine and pesto.  Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add salt to taste. Serve in large shallow bowls.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

Recipe source: Ina Garten

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