Winter Minestrone

This delicious minestrone soup is jammed-packed full of vegetable goodness. Soup is a great way to make the most of seasonal produce – vary your choices throughout the year and stock up on what’s in season. I always save the rinds from Parmigiano Reggiano to flavor the soup – a trick passed down from my Sicilian grandmother.  Just remember to remove the rind before serving – those little pieces of rind that you’d normally throw away are super tasty and not to be wasted.

parm-rind

This recipe makes a big batch of soup perfect for freezing in individual portions for lunches or dinners throughout the week. This version of my family’s Italian classic is hearty and full of vibrant flavor. Minestrone is a very versatile soup. In Italy, minestrone can be made with just about any seasonal vegetables, and butternut squash is no exception. The local vegetables currently available are the hearty dark leafy greens and root vegetables. I’m delighted to share with you this warming soup that takes advantage of what the season is offering.

Ingredients

4 slices of bacon, diced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup butternut squash, cubed
3 carrots, chopped
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups cabbage, chopped
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 cup orzo pasta, uncooked (or any small pasta)
1 cup peas
4 cups spinach
15 oz can cannellini beans
Parmesan rind (optional)
1 bay leaf
Grated Parmesan for garnish

Instructions

Heat a large pan over medium-heat and add the diced bacon. Fry it gently until it starts to turn brown and smell fantastic.

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Once browned, remove bacon and set it aside. Add the olive oil, onions and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.

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Add the garlic, rosemary, Italian seasoning, butternut squash and carrots. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After the vegetables start to tenderize and blossom, stir in the can of crushed tomatoes. Add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. (More salt can be added to taste if needed when serving). Cook for 5 minutes.

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Add the chicken stock and bring the soup to a light simmer.

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Add the chopped cabbage. It appears like a large quantity, but the cabbage reduces in size when it cooks down.

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Stir in the zucchini and dry orzo pasta. The pasta will naturally cook in the soup.

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Add the peas (frozen work great).

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Add the spinach, cannellini beans and Parmesan rind.

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Add the bay leave and partially cover the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes.

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Add the cooked bacon back to the soup.

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Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

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Yield: 8 servings

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