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Winter Minestrone & Garlic Bruschetta

The Challenge

After a holiday hiatus (did you miss us? did you notice we were on hiatus?!), we had two recipes for the week: Maple Pecan Pie and this one, Winter Minestrone & Garlic Bruschetta, which you can find here or on page 53 of Foolproof.

Lea's Take:

There's nothing better than soup in the winter, mirite? Thanks to Mary again for her brilliant planning!

I typically don't eat minestrone (surprise!) for no other reason than it has too many vegetables in it [Mary: And not enough meat.]. [Lea: Right. That, too.] Even still, I was looking forward to making this recipe. We need more vegetables in my household, apparently (read on to learn why).

First, I'll start with the grocery shopping. I actually did it myself this time (go me!). I found the ingredients with little-to-no trouble but didn't know where to find pancetta. I guess if I had thought about it, I might've known; instead, I looked where the rest of the cured meats are in our vanilla grocery store and didn't find them. So, I asked an employee, who was stocking the meat cases. He had never even heard of pancetta (seriously? He works in meat!), so we had to ask one more individual. She was even nice enough to take me to it. (In case you're wondering, it's near the deli in the specialty meats.) [Mary: Apparently you don't read my parts of these blog posts...tip 1: read the recipe (because it says to cut it into 1/2" pieces), and tip 2: get the pancetta from the deli in one chunk (because the precut are much smaller than that).] [Lea: Ohhhhh... yeah, I really need to start reading the recipe. Although, I'm pretty sure my pancetta was already cut into 1/2" pieces. Just sayin'.] With my pancetta in hand and a ridiculously large butternut squash (for only 2 cups for the recipe), I set off looking for Pomi tomatoes. Since I had already spent an hour looking for pancetta, I gave up on Pomi and just used regular old diced tomatoes. It turned out just fine anyway. Because I know my family, I skipped the beans (sue me).

Aside from the 30-45 minutes it took to dice everything, the recipe was really easy: chop chop chop, throw into a pot, simmer until you stop. Then, the best part...when serving, add freshly grated cheese on top. [Mary: So poetic.] [Lea: Right? I didn't even mean to rhyme when I wrote it!]

The garlic bruschetta was just as easy. Cut a baguette (at a 45-degree angle, of course), brush oil on both sides, and toast in the oven. When done, rub a clove of garlic on one side. I did leave some of the baguette without garlic just in case Mr. Picky Pants didn't like it, but guess what? He ate all the garlic bread. Go figure.

Mary's Take:

Hi everyone! I've missed you! I was planning to give some explanation for our hiatus, blaming it on the way the recipes were scheduled (lots of recipes for company during the holidays) and the dampandemic keeping us from hosting, but I've decided not to bore you with my lame excuses. We're back at our challenge; full steam ahead, and all that! Never fear, though, I (and therefore, we) plan to absorb the recipes we missed throughout the remainder of the year...Dear Lord, please let us be able to have parties again!

On to Winter Minestrone!

I, like Lea, don't often reach for a minestrone soup, even though I like it a ton. I mean, most of the soups that I make have onion, carrot, and celery in them, so I'm not concerned about the vegetable-ness of it. It's the idea that it's usually meatless. I just have somewhere in the back of my irrational head that if there's no meat, it's not going to be filling and I'll probably staaarrrrve to death. I do the same with salads for lunch: if it doesn't have chicken or turkey, I'll for sure need something else to eat. [Lea: OMG, me too!]

Good news on this recipe, contains pancetta! Full meal!

Another great thing about this recipe is that I had everything on hand, except for the pesto. And the Pomi tomatoes, but I always have diced tomatoes in the pantry, so I would have just used those. [Lea: But look at that! She, of course, was able to find Pomi tomatoes. (Full disclosure: I thought I was looking for a type of tomato, like the San Marzano ones Ina made us use in another recipe.)]

It does take some time to do all the chopping (and I always worry about losing a finger cutting butternut squash), but once you get that done, this soup comes together lickety-split.

First, sauté the pancetta in a bit of oil. I think the larger pieces of pancetta recommended in this recipe is a good idea; they don't get as crunchy and feel like they're the same size and tenderness as the rest of the vegetables. Next, add the onion, carrot, celery, butternut squash, thyme, and garlic.

Cook those for a few minutes to soften before adding the tomatoes and stock. Let the soup simmer for 30 minutes, then add the cannellini beans and cooked pasta. I had wondered why it was necessary to cook the pasta before adding it to the soup, since most soups I have made cook the pasta in the broth. I am guessing because the tomato juices would be absorbed by the pasta and turn it pink. I might try it that way next time just to save myself from cleaning another pot. I don't mind me some pink pasta.

When that's all done and delicious-looking, toss in the spinach, and then some wine and the pesto. If I didn't have pesto on a day I wanted to make this, I wouldn't make a special trip to the store...I don't think it made that much of a difference. [Lea: Agreed.]

This recipe makes a lot of soup. I had to switch pots so I could add the spinach (and had to pawn off half the leftovers so we wouldn't be eating it the entire week).

Oh, and don't forget to make the garlic bruschetta, because those little suckers are heaven-sent!

The Verdict:

Lea: I would definitely make this again. I even ate it 2 or 3 more times that week and I'm not a big fan of leftovers. [Mary: I've done the same.]

Josh: It's delightful. (me: ha)

Mr. Good Eater: It's, like, weirdly good. (me: what do you mean "weirdly"?)

Mr. Picky Pants: The bread is good.

Then he embellished: The sauce was good (me: you mean broth), the pasta was good. The rest of it had color (me: you mean, the vegetables?). Which is bad.

Got it: pasta good, vegetables bad. [Mary: Duh.]

Do you see what I'm working with here?!

Mary: This soup is an easy weekday or wintry weekend winner. I wasn't sure if the butternut squash would end up sweetening the soup and am happy to report that it did not. It actually adds a pretty orange to this already-colorful meal. I also noticed that it was perfectly seasoned. Not too salty at all, even with the beloved shower of parmesan at the end. I thought about fighting John for the last bruschetta.

And? Since it had nice big pieces of pancetta, my brain felt as full and satisfied as my belly. Maybe I could get used to this cooking on a Saturday night business!

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