Hearty Winter Minestrone

There’s really not much to say when the wind-chill is 46 below. And the frost has left a feathery trail eight feet high, all the way to the top of the porch door. And you have to worry if the antifreeze in your windshield wiper fluid is capable of functioning in this kind of cold. Not that it matters, since you won’t be going anywhere.

There’s not much to say, except that it is absolutely, definitively, without a doubt, soup weather.

So if you are blessed to be in a region experiencing the polar vortex, or winter storm Hercules, or heck, if you just caught a matinee of Disney’s “Frozen,” warm yourself up with a big pot of minestrone. Any soup that starts with sautéed bacon and then adds piles upon piles of hearty vegetables is a guaranteed winner. And since Gabe and I are a two-person household, this big batch of soup has lasted us for days.

Just in time to jet off to California, where I can almost guarantee it’s not soup weather. Phew.

Hearty winter minestrone

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Hearty Winter Minestrone

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 oz. bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 28 oz. canned, diced tomatoes
  • 6-8 cups unsalted chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 15 oz. canned navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • freshly grated parmesan, for serving
  • homemade or store-bought pesto, for serving

Heat olive oil in large dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the onion, carrots, celery, butternut squash, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables have begun to soften. Stir in dry vermouth and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, 6 cups of chicken stock, bay leaf, 1 Tbs. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir in the orzo and simmer for another 10-12 minutes, or until orzo is al dente. Remove the bay leaf from the pot and stir in the navy beans. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock. Cook for another few minutes, until the beans are heated through. Stir in the baby spinach and cook for a few more minutes, until the spinach is wilted. Taste the soup and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve in individual bowls with freshly grated parmesan and a dollop of fresh pesto on top.

Serves 8.

Source: Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten.

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