Last night my nine-year old daughter had a homework assignment to write an essay about our family's rituals this time of year. As we discussed what she might write, I thought of time spent in the garden putting the flowers to bed and raking up golden leaves fallen from the sky. I thought about moving indoors, washing sweaters and blankets to keep warm. Together we anticipated carving pumpkins and selecting costumes for Halloween.
I also thought of this Harvest Minestrone Soup. As much as I love to try new recipes, I always come back to this one in the fall. Immensely versatile—you can use any vegetables you like—this soup is enriched by adding Parmesan cheese to the broth along with basil pesto at serving. It is abundant with the flavors of the season, perfect to eat right now, or make a double batch for the freezer so you can savour its flavors as fall moves to winter.
May you enjoy the rituals you and your family love, now and throughout the year.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
HARVEST MINESTRONE SOUP
Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- One quarter cup olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped fine dice
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine dice
- 1 celery stalk, peeled and chopped fine dice
- 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 2 cups peeled butternut squash or yams, cut in to bite sized cubes
- 1 small piece of rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, rinsed, wrapped in cheese cloth and tied with butcher’s twine*
- 4 cups stock, chicken or vegetable
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups mixed fresh vegetables of your choice (greens beans, corn kernels, peas, greens, broccoli florets), cut to bite-sized pieces as needed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups ready croutons, preferably garlic, for serving
- Prepared basil pesto, for serving
- Prep all the ingredients as described in the ingredients list above. Set near your stove top.
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot, over high heat on the stove. Using pot holders, lift the soup and tip it to carefully distribute the heated oil to cover the bottom of the pot.
- Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the heated oil. Lower the heat to medium. Sauté until the onions are translucent and the carrots beginning to soften. Add the butternut squash or yam and toss with the cooked vegetables. Continue to cook the vegetables until the squash or yam is lightly browned on the outside, about five to ten minutes.
- Carefully place the cheesecloth-covered cheese rind in to the soup pot. Add the stock, white wine and bay leaf. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Bring the liquid to a boil; lower the temperature to a simmer. Simmer for about one hour. Stir occasionally. *
- About ten minutes before serving, carefully remove the cheese rind and bay leaf from the soup and discard. Add the 2 cups mixed vegetables to the soup. Stir and cook long enough for the vegetables to cook through , about 5 to ten minutes depending on the vegetables you choose. They should be crunchy, not limp.
- When ready to serve, place a handful of croutons and 1 teaspoon basil pesto sauce to the bottom of 4 to 6 soup bowls. Ladle the hot soup in to each bowl. (Or, serve with parmesan cheese at the table. See notes below.)
*Notes: 1. If you do not have a cheese rind available, skip this step and add freshly grated Parmesan cheese when serving.
2. If you would prefer to make this soup in a slow cooker, cook the vegetables as described, then transfer to a slow cooker. Add the cheese rind, bay leaf, stock , wine, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for about two hours. Finish as described above.