Try this minestrone on a cold night

Ina Garten serves this winter minestrone with garlic bruschetta.
Ina Garten serves this winter minestrone with garlic bruschetta.

The recent wet chilly weather started us thinking about cold weather meals.

One of our favorite soups is from Food Network star Ina Garten; it combines vegetables, beans, bacon and pasta. Add a good loaf of bread and you have an excellent meal.

That recipe and many warming soups and stews can be found on our recipe site:

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Good olive oil

4 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 stalks celery, diced

2 1/2 cups diced peeled butternut squash

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic, about 4 cloves

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

28 ounces canned diced tomatoes

6 to 8 cups chicken stock or broth

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti, orzo, riso or farfalline

8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup good dry white wine

2 tablespoons store-bought pesto

Garlic bruschetta, for serving

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften.

Add tomatoes, 6 cups of chicken stock or broth, bay leaf, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Remove bay leaf and discard. Add beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick add more chicken stock. Just before serving, reheat soup, add spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons, like tossing a salad. Cook just until leaves are wilted. Stir in white wine and pesto. Add salt to taste, if needed. Serve with bruschetta and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Yield: 8-10 servings.