supremely minestrone

I saw this recipe across a crowded room and it was love at first sight. We had finally made it across town to try out this new barbecue place. We were chowing down on some seriously delicious pulled pork sandwiches when Ina Garten caught my eye on the television. After trying to figure out why in the world they would be playing the Food Network at a restaurant, I found myself caught in that very trap– drooling over food on tv while subsequently stuffing my stomach full of another delicious food (because America!). I scribbled down the name of the recipe and ‘barefoot contessa’ so I could look the recipe up later. I think it was the allure of the giant pot, full to the brim with chunks of veggies. And the most brilliant and delicious little tip I learned while watching Ina work her magic—-I saw her RUB a garlic clove across the tops of the toasted french bread. The heck with garlic salt. It half grated, half melted itself into what I would soon learn is the most delicious main course topping for a hot soup on a cold day. You know, those cold cold, snowy Florida days.

winter minestrone
from the Barefoot Contessa

4 ounces pancetta, 1/2-inch-diced
cups chopped yellow onions
 2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) carrots (3 carrots)
 2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) celery (3 stalks)
 2½ cups (1/2-inch-diced) peeled butternut squash
 1½ Tbs minced garlic (4 cloves)
 2  tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
 1 (26-ounce) can or box diced tomatoes, such as Pomi
 6-8 cups chicken stock
 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
 2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti
 8-10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
 ½ cup good dry white wine
 2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
 fresh grated parmesean cheese
 kosher salt & black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of 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 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, 6 cups of the chicken stock, 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.
  • 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.
  • Just before serving, reheat the soup, and add the spinach. 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. Serve large shallow bowls of soup with a bruschetta on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil and serve hot.

garlic crostini
also from the barefoot contessa

1 french baguette
 1 clove garlic, cut in half
olive oil
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Slice the baguette at a 45 degree angle in 1/2-inch-thick slices.
  • Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted.
  • Take the slices out of the oven and rub the surface of each one with the cut clove of garlic.

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