Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale and White Beans
Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans is the farmers market turned into a big pot of warm comfort.
If you follow me on Instagram, each Saturday morning you can count on a flood of gorgeous farmers market images: bright flowers, crates bursting with tomatoes, and pumpkins so pretty, Cinderella would have a hard time choosing just one for her carriage.
The farmers market inspires my cooking 1) Because the produce is abundant, affordable, and so fresh it was often picked that morning, and 2) Because I wind up with so many veggie impulse buys, I have no choice but to work them into our menu. Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans is my latest farmers market love story.
Butternut squash and I have a long history. Last fall when one of the growers marked his squash down to $.20 a pound, I brought home so much I had to store it behind Ben’s man recliner. (We were out of space in the kitchen, and the space under the bed has been claimed by my out-of-season clothes and Ben’s old running shoes.) I’m a bit of a kale fanatic, and the pretty green tops on these carrots make me powerless to resist them too.
This minestrone soup combines in-seaon veggies with pretty white beans for healthy protein, whole grain noodles for tummy-filling fiber, and a heap of freshly grated Parmesan + bacon because life is short and it’s the right thing to do.
I receive a lot of questions from readers—many of whom are students themselves—about how I handle Ben and my food budget, while still enjoying healthy, satisfying meals. I’m no Dave Ramsey, but Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans (which feeds 8 nicely and 6 really nicely) is the case study for a few principles I have learned about eating well on less dinero. Let’s break it down:
- Fresh, seasonal ingredients: Buying in-season ingredients is good karma for both your taste buds (fruits and veggies taste best in their prime) and your wallet. In the case of this Minestrone Soup, both butternut squash and kale are in season, so they set me back all of $2.70 or $.38 per serving.
- Choose store brands where quality difference is negligible: For this recipe, I used the generic brand of chopped tomatoes, white beans, and chicken stock. I did spring for the low sodium versions of each—worth the net $1 difference to me. Of the three items listed here, if you want to splurge one name-brand, I’d choose the chicken stock.
- Mind your protein: Beans have to be one of my all-time favorite budget-friendly super stars (eggs are the other). Beans are good for you, easy to make, and dirt-cheap. Stock up on cans of beans when they are on sale (I bought these pretty little cannelli beans for a whopping $.77) and add ‘em to everything. For even more savings, plan ahead and start with dry beans. The bacon was a bit of a splurge when you look at the total cost of the package ($5.75), but I’ll use that package across three different dishes. I’ve found that about four slices of good bacon is just enough to add bacon-licious flavor, without upsetting your wallet or your waistline. (These bacon-topped Spaghetti Squash Boats are a recent favorite.)
- Splurge for quality where it counts and make it last: By being smart with my meal dollars, I have room to add a few higher quality ingredients, so I choose the most important ones. In our Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans, it’s the extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese, and they’re not costing me as much as you might guess. I like to buy big blocks of Parmesan ($6.49 per pound), then grate them in my food processor. The taste of freshly grated versus the green can varietal is beyond compare, and the price difference when handled this way is negligible. It’s the same story with extra virgin olive oil. I look for largest bottles of better-quality brands, and the benefit I receive far outweighs the small price difference.
Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans is my food-budget happy place. What’s yours? Feel free to share links to your favorite budget-friendly recipes and tips about how you stretch your food dollar. In the meantime, enjoy this big pot of warm, comforting Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans. It’s autumn farmers market bounty, brought directly to your table.
Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale and White Beans
- 4 ounces bacon, — 1/2-inch diced (4-5 slices)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil — plus extra for toasting the bread and serving
- 3 cups butternut squash — 1/2-inch diced & peeled (about 1 pound)
- 2 cups carrots — 1/2-inch diced (4 carrots)
- 2 cups celery — 1/2-inch diced (3 stalks)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion — about 1 medium
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic — 4 cloves
- 1 pound kale, — stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
- 26 ounces canned chopped tomatoes
- 6 to 8 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt — plus additional as needed (depending upon the saltiness of the stock)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups cooked whole wheat small pasta — such as elbow (about 1 cup dry)
- 1 can cannellini beans — (15 ounces) drained and rinsed
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese — for serving
- Baguette — cut into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices
In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium low, cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from pan and place in between two paper towels set atop a dinner plate. Blot lightly and set aside. Drain most of the excess fat from the Dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, squash, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sauté over medium heat, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes. Add the kale in batches as it fits in the pot, stirring so that it cooks down. Once kale has lightly wilted, add the tomatoes, 6 cups chicken stock, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
Once soup has simmered and the vegetables are soft, discard the bay leaf. Add the beans, cooked pasta, and reserved bacon and heat through. The soup should be fairly thick, but add additional chicken stock as needed. Serve hot drizzled with olive oil and topped with Parmesan cheese.
To toast baguette: Place rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Brush both sides of each baguette slice with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Cook until golden and toasted, about 6 minutes. Serve warm with soup.
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