I’m not sure how many of you have noticed, but it’s pretty darn cold outside! I really have no patience for winter weather anymore, but it seems like it’s here to stay for a little while. I had elaborate plans to make some kind of stir fry tonight, but when I got home from work I fixated on eating something warm and cozy instead. For me, that means soup. Fortuitously, I had DVRed Barefoot Contessa, and Ina Garten happened to be making a winter minestrone. Perfect! I would make that. I had most of the ingredients, and it would certainly warm me up. Plus, about 30 of my friends pinned the recipe on Pinterest over the last few months, so it had to be good.
The problem with following recipes, though, is that I don’t like to do it. Yes, I find it funny that I have a blog with the sole purpose of sharing recipes, but I can’t bring myself to follow any recipe exactly (except when baking). So, I kind of winged it. That’s kind of how I roll. I used most of the ingredients Ina used, but improvised with the measurements and made a few substitutions and omissions. Here’s her recipe (which I’m sure is fabulous): Winter Minestrone. In summary, I omitted pancetta, wine, and pesto (who has pesto lying around?), and reduced some of the amounts of the ingredients. I didn’t make bruschetta like she did, but I would have if I had a baguette.
The great part about this soup, besides that it was delicious, is that it made about 6 dinner-sized servings. I even brought some over to my grandma and aunt, with enough left for lunch tomorrow for two people. And, it’s vegetarian, except for the chicken broth (which can be swapped for vegetable broth). Even without the bruschetta on the side, I was very full after eating this. Plus, I think it ended up being at least 2-3 servings of veggies per bowl, so high five for that!
I know I’ve already made minestrone soup on this blog. But, I promise, this one tastes different. At least different enough to merit posting it. I’ll try to bring more variety to the next few posts.
Hope you enjoy! This is how it’s done:
Active Cook Time: 25 minutes
Passive Cook Time: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
about 1 1/4 cup diced butternut squash
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can white beans, drained
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
4 14.5 oz cans chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dried elbow macaroni
Two very large handfuls fresh spinach, cleaned and chopped (about 4-5 cups)*
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and onion (you may dice and add sequentially). Stir occasionally, sauteeing for about 5-7 minutes. Add the squash, stir and cook another 5 minutes. Add the garlic, beans, tomato sauce, chicken broth, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (about 20 minutes). Add the noodles, stir, and cook until tender (about 8 minutes). Add the spinach and stir in until wilted. Taste, and season with more salt or pepper if desired.
Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
*Best way to clean spinach (or any veggie that’s grown in sandy soil, such as leeks): Fill a big bowl about 3/4 of the way with water. Chop the spinach, and throw it in the bowl. Using your hands. immerse the spinach in the water and swish it around. This allows the sand to fall to the bottom. Again, using your hands, pick up the spinach, let it drain for a few seconds, and then add it to whatever you’re making. The sand will stay at the bottom of the bowl of water.
Change it up:
- Honestly, you can add or remove any vegetable you can think of. Some easy changes would be to add more green leafy veggies or to use something like kale, tuscan kale, turnip greens, collard greens, swiss chard, etc. instead of spinach.
- Use diced tomatoes (like the original recipe) instead of tomato sauce
- Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth
- Use a different shape of pasta instead of elbows. Or, even better, use quinoa, bulgur, barley, or rice instead. Or, omit it altogether.
- Use red kidney beans instead of white beans.
- I can’t vouch for how this would work, but I bet you could put all the ingredients except the spinach in a slow cooker and cook it on low for 6-8 hours. Then, I would just stir in the spinach before serving. Let me know if you try it.