Every time I make minestrone soup — any minestrone soup — I think it’s the best I’ve ever made. This is because I resort to such recipes only in the winter, when sitting down to a hot bowlful of vegetables and beans mixed with pasta and Parmesan cheese sounds like a smartest thing to do.
This particular elixir, created by Ina Garten in her latest cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You can Trust, is healthy, rib-sticking and most of all, it tastes fabulous.
But wait! There’s more! This soup will help you feel like you’ll survive the winter. You’ll make it to Spring with the help of Ina’s foolproof minestrone. The addition of butternut squash sets this apart from standard minestrones. That’s what Ina does — she adds stuff that we wouldn’t normally think of, and her creations always work brilliantly. I’m slinging superlatives here, but in this case they’re entirely appropriate. Ina is a culinary creative genius.
Trust me when I say that this the best minestrone I’ve ever made. Today.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, 1/2-in. diced
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
2 cups carrots, 1/2-in. diced (3 carrots)
2 cups celery, 1/2-in. diced (3 stalks)
2 1/2 cups peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/2-in. chunks
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried thyme
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
6 to 8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta
8 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large Dutch oven and add the pancetta. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken broth, bay leaf, 2 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 tsp. 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 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 cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
WW PP per serving: 6