How to Make a Winter Minestrone (without bacon)

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Don't ask me why the beans insisted on sinking to the bottom for this photo. But don't worry, they were properly shared in the meal.

Each winter I have a soup that monopolizes most of my menu plans. This year, it is a simple do-ahead or do-in-parts soup of beans, pasta, and squash. The biggest reason this soup is a hit for me this year is because so much of it can be done ahead. Perhaps if I made it all at once I might not think it was so easy. But I don't make it all at once. The beans are cooked one day and frozen. The squash might be cut a few days before the soup is to be made. And the pasta and roasted squash might be cooked the morning of and the day before respectively. So if you like to have a meal that takes you minutes to prepare on the day of, this is the one for you!

Most of the butternut squash soup recipes I saw contained ham hocks for flavor. And that doesn't work for a vegetarian! However, I do add fresh greens sometimes. Other options include fresh herbs, a grating of Pecorino cheese (a hit with my kids), or even a dollop of salsa verde. But you can also stay with the basic recipe and be perfectly happy.

Just in case you aren't already aware how easy on the budget soups are to begin with, I'll point out that the squash cost $1. The beans cost $1. And the pasta costs $0.75 on sale. This particular recipe fed my family twice. And you know how much my family eats!

Recipe for Butternut Squash Minestrone

  • 1 butternut squash, approximately 2 pounds, diced
  • 1 pound white beans, cooked (retain cooking liquid for soup)
  • 1 pound pasta (preferably smaller in shape, but Nora liked this corkscrew)
  • 1 cup 5-minute soup base
  • 2 Tablespoons McKay's Vegetarian Chicken Broth
  • 5 oz. fresh spinach (optional)
  • Salt, Black Pepper, and Pecorino Cheese optional at the table

Step 1Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat squash with oil and lay out, single layer, on a jelly roll pan. Roast 20 minutes or until squash is soft and browning on the edges. This can be made ahead. Once cool, place in an air-tight container and refrigerate.

Step 2 Cook the pasta according to package directions. It is optional to retain the cooking liquid for the soup. This can be made ahead. Cool the pasta and place in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Keep cooking liquid separate.

Step 3 Combine all ingredients with 4 cups of cooking liquid or water. Warm through, stirring often and gently. Add more liquid if necessary. Add spinach just before serving.

OK, I'm going to be frank. If I make this soup in parts, I don't stress over rewarming in a pot. I mix the ingredients cold in a bowl (just leaving the vegetable cubes to defrost earlier in the day and ladle out the soup into mugs before microwaving. That's why I think it's so easy. But find out for yourself!