This winter minestrone is my favorite way to use butternut squash. This soup is easy to prepare, but the delicious combination of flavors from the smoky bacon, wine and pesto make it a lot more interesting than any other vegetable soup I have ever had.
4 slices of bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and diced
2 1/2 cups celery, diced
2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
26 ounces chopped tomatoes (canned or boxed)
6 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
15 ounces cannellini beans (one can) drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked tubetti pasta (optional)
1/2 cup white wine
4 tablespoons pesto
5 ounces (one package) baby spinach
Start by rendering the bacon in the bottom of the pot. While the bacon is rendering, dice the onion, carrots, celery and butternut. Add the diced veggies to the pot. Just enough fat should be rendered from the bacon to cook the veggies. Continue to cook the veggies for 10 minutes until they are softened, then add the garlic and the thyme.
Add the tomatoes and vegetable stock along with the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
When you are ready to serve, taste the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the beans and the cooked pasta. Then add the wine, pesto and spinach. Cook just for a minute until the spinach wilts.
A note about the pasta- in my opinion, it is optional and can be left out. This makes the soup gluten free. I am not sure if it technically still qualifies as minestrone, but I would say it is equally good with or without the pasta. If you will save and reheat some of the soup, I would only add pasta to the portion that will be served immediately. It reheats ok with the pasta, but a bit better without it.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Ina Garten, via The Underwear Drawer.