Chip and I first had minestrone soup while we were in Boston this past fall. We were actually grabbing one last lunch in the North End before dropping my brother off at the airport while the rest of us would be driving up to Maine. Chip had been pretty sick during this part of the trip (if you ask him, he will dramatically say he was struggling to breathe), but after some antibiotics and one amazing minestrone soup, he was a new man. Since then, he was pretty set on finding a recipe as close to that minestrone (a task that was conveniently passed on to me). This recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof is the only other minestrone we have liked as much. We’ve made it a few times now and we love more each time. We made this soup last night and with this cold front we’re getting, it’ll be our dinner again tonight!
- Good olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta, 1/2-inch diced (HEB has small packages of pre-diced pancetta that works great)
- 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 (Whole Foods sells this pre-diced, but if you need to do this yourself, soften the squash up by microwaving for a couple of minutes)
- 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, preferably homemade (I always go with store bought, the homemade stock can get pretty expensive! And 6 cups always works great for us)
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (I haven’t been able to find these at HEB, so I just use Navy beans)
- 2 cups cooked small pasta (I like using Pipe Rigate pasta)
- 8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons store-bought 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, sqauash, 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, 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, reheat the soup, add the psinach 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 another teaspoon or two of salt to taste (we’ve always been fine as-is). Serve large shallow bowls of soup and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.