I’ve always wanted to make this recipe from my Barefoot Contessa Foolproof cookbook, but frankly the number of ingredients needed always discouraged me. I was flipping through the book the other day and came across it again and realized I had most of the ingredients on hand, so I thought it would be the perfect dinner recipe for a chilly winter night. Although the total time estimated to make the soup is about an hour and a half, it won’t require you to stand over the stove the whole time. The hardest part is prepping the ingredients and chopping all the vegetables. Also, if you want to cut yourself a break, buy the pre-cut butternut squash from the store like I do, it makes things a lot easier! This soup has so much flavor going on, that my taste buds didn’t even believe it was Minestrone soup! Not that I don’t enjoy Minestrone soup, but this recipe is on another level with the flavors from the pancetta, fresh herbs, wine, and pesto! So don’t be turned off by the lengthy list of ingredients. Plus it makes a ton of leftovers that are great for lunch!
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time 1 hour and 30 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, 1/2-inch-diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) celery (4 stalks)
2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) peeled butternut squash (or buy the pre-cut kind from Trader Joe’s or Costco, like I do!)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 (26-ounce) can diced tomatoes, no salt added
6 to 8 cups chicken stock, (I used about 7 cups)
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 Ditalini or Tubetti
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (a few big handfuls)
1/2 cup good dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
Fresh Bread, for serving (optional)
Heat the 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 onion, 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, add more chicken stock.
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 (I didn’t need to add any). Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and top with a piece of toasted baguette.
Recipe inspired by Barefoot Contessa Foolproof cookbook.