October 14 2019
It's early October and it's soup time! Well, it's always soup time for me. Even at 112°F, I feel like soup (probably because we keep the A/C so cold, it feels like winter in my house!). I am just a soup-lover! I make batches of soup and freeze it so that I have variety. My lunch often consists of one of my frozen soups. You know what I'm going to say: "It makes my happy"!
And, one of my faves is Ina Garten's Winter Minestrone. Now, I have always followed her recipe word for word, but this time I decided to throw in a Parmesan cheese rind (what's that, you ask?) and eliminate the wine and pesto sauce and I have to say that it was outstanding! I love Ina's original recipe and you can look it up online under the same name, but I might prefer this version more.
You try it and let me know!
This recipe starts of with crisping up some pancetta (don't skip this step...it's divine!) and then incorporating and softening the veggies. Add you stock and some herbs and voila! You are on your way to making the most wonderful minestrone EVER!!
In case you are wondering about the inclusion of a Parmesan rind, here's the skinny: I have always thrown my Parmesan rinds in the freezer for the time when I am making a soup or stew that would benefit from a rich Parmesan flavor. I think that the deepest flavor comes from the rind and because it's so dense, it doesn't turn to mush (good culinary term). It might eventually disintegrate into the soup, but not until it's done its magic, which is to impart that incredible nutty flavor.
So, next time you are finishing off a chunk of Parm, just toss the rind in the freezer for that special time when you just might need it!!
Serves 6 to 8
Total Time: 55 minutes
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 4 ounces pancetta, diced 1/4” 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions 2 cups carrots (approx 3 large), 1/2” dice 2 cups celery (approx 4 stalks), 1/2” dice 2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2” pieces (see Chef’s Note) 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme 26 ounce canned or boxed tomatoes, such as Pomi 6-8 cups chicken stock 1 3”-long parmesan rind (see Chef’s Note) 1 bay leaf Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper 1 15-ounce can cannelloni beans, drained & rinsed 5 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves Parmesan Cheese, for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add pancetta and sauté until lightly crisp, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic and thyme and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 7 to 9 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of stock, parmesan rind, bay leaf, 1 tbsp Kosher salt and 1 1/2 tsp pepper to the pot. Bring it all to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
Discard the bay leaf and whatever is left of the parmesan rind (it may have completely dissolved). Add the beans and heat thoroughly. The soup should be thick but feel free to add more stock if you prefer it a little thinner.
Just before serving, add the spinach and toss with big spoons (almost like salad servers) until the spinach wilts into the soup. Add more salt and pepper, if necessary, to taste. Serve with additional Parmesan Cheese, if desired.
Chef’s Notes: If you’ve ever wondered what to do with the rind from a chunk of Parmesan Cheese, freeze it until you have a soup to make! It adds a depth of flavor that is unsurpassed!
Butternut squash can now be found already peeled and diced, but it’s important to look at it and make sure that it’s fresh. Sometimes it can be mealy and that will make your soup less than perfect (I would say awful!). If you are unsure, just pick up a small whole butternut squash and do it yourself! It’s not hard to peel a butternut squash... you just need a good knife and a cutting board.
Recipe inspired by Ina Garten