A delicious and comforting winter minestrone soup thats packed with vegetables.
6 rashers of streaky bacon (about 90-100gms) diced
1½ cups chopped white onions
2 cups diced carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
1 1/2 cups diced celery (about 3 large stalks)
2½ cups diced peeled butternut (1 small butternut)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 x 410 gms tins of good quality Italian tomatoes (chopped) or tomato puree
6 to 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as Ditalini
150 – 200gms fresh baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup (80ml) good dry white wine
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat a glug of olive oil in a large heavy-based pot and fry the chopped bacon for about 4 minutes until the fat has rendered out and it starts to brown.
Add the onions, carrots, celery, butternut, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.
Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, salt and pepper (depending on your flavour of the stock its best to season to taste here) and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
While the minestrone is bubbling away, cook your pasta in salted water according to the pack instructions. Drain just a minute or two before it is al dente. Remove the bay and add the cooked pasta to the soup and heat through.
The soup is quite thick but add more chicken stock if necessary. When you are ready to serve and the soup is heated through, add the spinach and fold it through the minestrone soup to wilt it. This happens quickly. Add the white wine and the pesto and allow to heat through for a minute or two. Check the seasoning adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve in bowls with freshly grated Parmesan and crunchy bread or bruschetta/toast.