I love soup, and I also love the recipes of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa, so when I came across the following minestrone recipe recently, I was unabashedly excited to try it. A few weekends ago when we had an early cold spell, I cooked up a batch, and it far exceeded my already high expectations! Even my husband, who is not much of a soup eater, raved about it.
Heavy on fresh vegetables and beans, this minestrone packs a lot of fiber and protein into one bowl; in fact, it was almost stew-like and one serving was plenty for both my husband and me. To lighten up the fat and calorie content a little bit, I omitted the pancetta and Parmesan cheese, and I did not use olive oil when toasting the baguette.
Hope you’ll consider giving this recipe a try. In my mind, there’s not much better than sitting down to a hot, steaming bowl of hearty soup on a cold winter’s night.
Winter Minestrone and Garlic Bruschetta, by Barefoot Contessa
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
1 (26-ounce) can or box diced tomatoes, such as Pomi
6 to 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
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 store-bought pesto
Garlic Bruschetta (recipe follows)
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 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, I add more chicken stock.
Just before serving, reheat the soup, 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 another teaspoon or two of salt to taste. Serve large shallow bowls of soup with a bruschetta on top. Sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil and serve hot.
Image courtesy of Food Network