Barefoot Contessa Recipe #30: Winter Minestrone and Garlic Bruschetta

This recipe can be found in Foolproof, page 53.

Last Friday was really cold! Like really, really cold. Mother Nature was definitely preparing us for more than a foot of snow we got on Monday. But, with the colder weather on Friday, I decided that a soup would be the perfect dinner. Of course, I made an Ina soup!

One of Ina’s most important tenets of cooking is to use the freshest ingredients. This is another way of saying to use foods that are in season. Well, right now, Connecticut is in the smack dab middle of winter. So the produce that is “in season” is hard to come by. But, once I opened Ina’s recipe index and turned to the soup section, I laid eyes on a perfect in-season soup recipe.

Ina’s winter minestrone is great for this time of year. The main ingredients are winter growing root vegetables such as squash. I will admit, I jazzed it up a little bit in the spirit of convenience. Ina’s recipe calls for butternut squash exclusively. However, when I got to the grocery store, I found a ready to use package of butternut squash, sweet potato, and acorn squash. I was so pleased! Not only for the amount of time it would save me, but for the fact that it included acorn squash! Acorn squash is one of my favorites and though it’s readily available to me this time of year, I just don’t use it that often.

The addition of the sweet potato and acorn squash made for a nice, hearty, denser soup that really stuck to your ribs. Another great benefit to this soup? It’s plant-based and easily made vegetarian/vegan. Just leave out the pancetta and swap out chicken stock for vegetable stock.

Ina’s recipe calls for adding in store-bought pesto and white wine right at the end of the cooking process. The wine adds excellent flavor, albeit, a little surprising. But what I really want to talk about is the addition of store-bought pesto. (Yes, I keep saying store-bought pesto, because it’s so unusual for Ina.) Ina tends to make almost everything herself, but I’ve never seen her make pesto before. And I will admit, I have never been one to poo-poo on ready made products. Especially when it involves expensive ingredients (pine nuts) or difficult to find ingredients (fresh basil/mint) for the time of year you are in.

The store bought pesto. It was surprisingly very tasty!

Overall this was an easy soup recipe that can easily be adapted to seasonal vegetables. For example, I can totally see myself making this next Fall with different vegetables from my garden such as zucchini and yellow squash. There were also so many layers of flavors to this soup. That surprised me considering the only other spice I added besides salt and pepper was thyme. I think it was the combination of the white wine added towards the end and addition of the pesto that really brought the flavor up to the next level.

I think this one is going to go on the Favorite Recipes List.

Look at all those veggies and flavor-makers!

Until next time, readers…


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