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A bowl of minestrone and a side of bread
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Winter minestrone soup with pesto

Pick your favorite fall & winter veggies to use in this soup: butternut squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, brussels sprouts, and carrots.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Servings: 8 1.5 cup bowls
Calories: 250kcal

Ingredients

Aromatics

  • 2 tbsp bacon fat (or butter, see note)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 4 cloves garlic

Soup ingredients

  • 6 medium carrots (or parsnips)
  • ½ butternut squash, peeled (or about 1 lb of any winter squash)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled (or regular potato, or celeriac)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or substitute 1½ tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp salt (more or less depening on sodium level of broth)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (or red pepper if preferred)
  • 1 parmesan rind (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 26 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 6-8 cups chicken broth
  • 15 oz can of cannellini beans rinsed and drained
  • ½ - ¾ cups dry small pasta, like ditalini (see note for small pasta types and measurements)

Finishing touches

  • 8 oz spinach (or kale or shredded brussels sprouts)
  • ½ cup dry white wine (any non-sweet white wine or vermouth you would drink)
  • 2-3 tbsp pesto

Instructions

Prep produce

  • Cut the onion and celery into a small dice, and finely chop the garlic. Cut the carrots, butternut squash, and sweet potato into bite-sized pieces for soup. Roughly chop spinach (or kale, stems and ribs removed).

Make the soup

  • Cook aromatics, about 10 minutes: Heat 2 tbsp bacon grease (or butter) in a large soup pot (minimum of 6 quarts, see note). Add the diced onion and celery, cook until it smells good and the onions turn translucent (about 6-8 minutes). Add the garlic, thyme, and 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Cook 2-3 more minutes until it smells good. (The oils in thyme are fat soluable, so cooking them in fat before broth is added intensifies the flavor).
  • Add more vegetables & broth, cook 20 minutes: Add the diced carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato, can of diced tomatoes, 6 cups of broth, Parmesan rind (optional), and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are almost soft (they will continue to cook after adding the pasta).
  • Taste, add salt as needed, remove herbs & Parmesan. At this point, give it a taste and add salt if needed. Remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and Parmesan rind.
  • Add beans & pasta, cook 8-10 minutes: Add the can of beans and dry pasta. Cook as long as pasta package indicates.
  • Thick vs thin soup: at this point, the soup is probably pretty thick. Add more broth if you want a thinner soup.

Almost done! Add finishing touches

  • Add spinach & wine: cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
  • Add pesto to the pot or add about 1 tsp to each bowl when served.

Notes

Butter or bacon grease: I usually buy bacon and cook it the night before, saving the bacon fat for this soup. It adds depth but doesn't add a noticeable bacon flavor. If you don't want the fuss, butter is a good substitute, followed by olive oil.
Pasta: you want about 2 cups of cooked pasta in the end (give or take, based on your preferences). You can cook the pasta in a separate pot if you're worried about measurements. I like to cook it in one pot to save on dishes. Below is a list of the approximate amount of dried pasta needed to make 2 cups cooked.
  • Ditalini or tubetti (my favorite for this soup): ½ cup dry
  • Elbows: just shy of 1 cup dry
  • Orzo: about ¾ cup dry
Soup pot: the standard dutch oven size is 6 quarts. This recipe will fill it to about 1-2 inches from the top, so anything smaller won't work.

Nutrition

Calories: 250kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 1322mg | Potassium: 1013mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 20618IU | Vitamin C: 47mg | Calcium: 184mg | Iron: 4mg