When you have had your fill of decadent Thanksgiving leftovers and are craving a huge steaming pot of something wholesome and chock full of vegetables, turn to this hearty winter minestrone soup.
The recipe makes a large batch if you still have holiday guests around, but is easily cut in half for a smaller crowd. This soup stands apart from other minestrones because it incorporates firm winter squash and smoky bacon, finished with two tablespoons of pesto. If you like a little heat, add some red pepper flakes at the table. It's fantastic served piping hot with a crusty loaf of bread.
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
4 large celery stalks, chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
26 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
8 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained
2 cups small pasta such as Ditalini, cooked al dente in salted water and drained
8 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons pesto
crusty bread, for serving
1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and bacon. Cook bacon until brown and crisp. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, about 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften and the onions are translucent. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan as you go. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover. Simmer 30 minutes. (Note: This is a good time to boil and drain your pasta)
2. Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans, cooked pasta, fresh spinach and pesto. Stir to combine and heat through. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Serve with grated parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and crusty bread. Adapted from Ina Garten.
Maya Evoy lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.