Declaring favorites is a tricky thing. Without minimizing every other soup recipe on my site, I’d be a little dishonest if I didn’t tell you how this winter minestrone has completely stolen my heart.
It is the very clear winner of soup season so far. That’s not saying the other soups I’ve posted over the last couple months haven’t been terrific. Delicious! Grand! They have been all those things but this one is special.
And in the interest of keeping it special, I must implore you to skip neither the garlic bruschetta (basically as easy as toasting bread so don’t ditch it) nor the pesto (it takes this soup up a couple notches).
Those two elements add the crazy to the delicious in a big, big way. And while I’m being bossy (it’s one of my few talents), let me add that the bacon should be up there in non-negotiables also.
Filled with all the things that make minestrone its own universe, hearty vegetables + beans + tender pasta swim in a light tomato broth while the aforementioned specialties are what make you hide the leftovers in the back of the fridge pretending it all got eaten up (you sneaky little devil, you).
My corner of Idaho has been decidedly wimpy on the winter/snow front this year.
My kids and I are the only ones in a 100-mile radius bummed about this, as we’re reminded daily by friends, but I’ll be hanging on to soup season as long as possible just for this tasty minestrone…even if that means sitting by the air conditioning vents while slurping this down.
You’ve already got the garlic bruschetta going on so keep it simple with either sliced apples and/or a pretty green salad (this spinach salad would be an excellent choice)
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half lengthwise (or sub the olive oil and garlic for a garlic-infused olive oil)
6 ounces bacon or turkey bacon, chopped (about 6 slices)
1 cup chopped yellow or white onions
1 1/2 cups diced carrots (about 3-4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups diced celery (about 5-6 stalks)
2 1/2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large can (28-ounces) crushed tomatoes
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup small pasta, like ditalini or small shells or elbow macaroni, uncooked
8 to 10 ounces chopped, fresh baby spinach leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
For the garlic bruschetta, preheat the oven to 425 degrees (you can prepare this while the soup is simmering). Slice the bread into 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush both sides of the bread lightly with olive oil and bake on a parchment -lined baking sheet for 5-6 minutes. Flip and bake for another couple minutes until lightly toasted; watch carefully so it doesn't burn! Immediately, out of the oven, rub the surface of the bread with the cut side of the garlic clove.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon until lightly browned and crispy (if using turkey bacon, you may need to add a bit of oil to the pot). Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate, leaving a bit of bacon grease in the pot (if using turkey bacon, drizzle a little olive oil in the pot after removing the bacon).
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, chicken broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions.
Stir in the beans and pesto (and spinach, if using). Heat through. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed, and add any additional chicken broth if the soup is too thick (FYI: we like it on the thick side).
Serve with the reserved bacon, slices of toasted garlic bruschetta (great for dipping), and freshly grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of the soup.
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