Butternut Squash & Kale Minestrone

October 21, 2010

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I’m not sure how I happened on the cooking blog Greens and Chocolate, but this recipe looked so good that it propelled me to the farmers market the very next day to get the fresh ingredients needed to make it.  I’m crazy for soup lately!   This may not be a “traditional” approach to minestrone, but I liked the idea of using two of my favorite ingredients – kale and winter squash.  It did not disappoint.   We served with baguette and Valpolicella – delicious!  NOTE:  see the original recipe above  for instructions for making this soup in a slow cooker.

The Squash

1 small butternut squash

Slice the squash in 3/4-inch slices, removing seeds from the bottom portion of the squash.  Brush lightly with oil.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Do not overcook.  Cool, peel and cut into cubes.  You will use 3 or so cups of cubed squash in the soup.  If you have excess, set aside for another use.   NOTE:  This step was not part of the original recipe, but I got the idea from the method used in the Chipotle-Lime Soup with Pumpkin.  I think baking the squash first adds more flavor and substance.  But, you could skip this step and just cube the fresh squash and add 3 cups of cubes to the soup base with the beans if you’re short on time.

The Soup Base

2 celery stalks, finely diced

2 carrots, finely diced

1 white or yellow onion, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

5 – 7 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock (depending on how thick or brothy you like your soup)

1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, not drained, or 1 1/2 cups chopped oven roasted tomatoes with juice

1 fresh bay leaf

Parmesan rind (optional)

2 (15 ounce) cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 can cannelini and one can red kidney)

Cover the bottom of a Dutch oven or soup pot with a thin film of olive oil and heat to medium.  Saute the celery, onion and carrot until soft, 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and herbs and saute for 2-3 more minutes.  Add the broth, tomatoes and their juices, the bay leaf, the parmesan rind and beans. (I used 6 cups chicken stock.)  Simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Add the cubed squash.  This step can be done a day or two ahead of time.  Refrigerate if you are not moving on to the next step immediately.   NOTE:  You can also add cooked chicken or slices of a flavorful, fully cooked chicken sausage, like tomato-basil.

Completing/Serving the Soup

1 large bunch kale, destemmed, rinsed and chopped

1 cup small pasta like macaroni or ditalini, cooked al dente (whole wheat recommended)

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Wash and chop the kale.  I used Lacinato (also called Dino) kale.  Regular kale would work well also, but I think a large bunch would be overwhelming in quantity.

Bring the soup base to a bubble and add the kale.  Bring back to a bubble, then turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove the Parmesan rind and the bay leaf.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente.  If you will use the entire quantity of soup immediately, add the pasta to the soup.  If not, put a serving of pasta into the bottom of each soup bowl and ladle the soup on top.  Either way, top with Parmesan cheese and enjoy! 


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