Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tales of a Weary Traveler and Minestrone Soup

Five weekends down, two more to go. After a month of traveling, Ryan and I are "hitting the wall," as they say in the running world. We are in the middle of a traveling marathon visiting friends, family and running in races. 

This past long weekend was fantastic. We were beach-bound for a Hegele Thanksgiving Extravaganza (Hegele is my maiden name). Most of my crazy family gathered for food, fun and several drinks! We then traveled to Charlotte for my high school reunion, which was more food, fun and several drinks! 

Minestrone Soup | www.kettlercuisine.com

After this type of weekend, Ryan and I seriously crave vegetables. Since we only have a few nights until we jet off again (this time to NYC), I thought a vegetable soup was in order and would last us a few nights without filling up our fridge with a million items.

A hearty winter minestrone soup sounded like the perfect thing for me! To make things easier, I started from an established recipe so I could just chop and drop in the large soup pot. We both thoroughly enjoyed this recipe from Ina Garten's (also known as The Barefoot Contessa) Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. I did make some changes (of course) to the recipe, so here are my notes:
  • I usually always increase the garlic in recipes because we love garlic in our house. If you are not too keen on garlic, reduce the amount or leave it out entirely.
  • If you can find fresh bay leaves, use those! Same for the other dried herbs. However, I don't like spending a lot of money on fresh herbs in the winter.
  • Chop the onion, celery, carrot and butternut squash into even size pieces. This ensures even cooking!
  • If you are like me and save your Parmesan rinds, this is a perfect soup to throw one into.
Minestrone Soup

The recipe falls somewhere between a soup and a stew, filling your bowl with hearty vegetables.

Winter Minestrone Soup

Recipe Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust by Ina Garten
Serves: 6-8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

Good olive oil
4 oz. pancetta, diced
2 cups yellow onion, chopped
2 cups carrots, chopped 
2 cups celery, chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried sage
26 oz. can diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
1 (15oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta (which is about 1 cup dried pasta)
4 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 T pesto
Parmesan, rind and freshly grated

Heat 2 T olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom. When the pancetta is lightly browned, pour in 2 T of white wine to deglaze the pan. Be sure to scrap up the bits on the bottom well with a wooden spoon. When the wine has reduced down a bit, add in the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, butternut squash, thyme, oregano and sage. Cook this over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
Minestrone Soup

Add in the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring this to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. While the soup simmers, boil the pasta and set aside.

Minestrone Soup

Stir in the drained beans and cooked pasta, heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it is too thick, add more chicken stock. If making the soup ahead, stop here and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, reheat the soup, add the spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Serve with shredded Parmesan

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