This hearty soup from the Barefoot Contessa is full of goodness – squash, tomatoes, cannellini beans, pasta and spinach. And the bacon doesn’t hurt either. I made this soup in two stages: the first day I simmered the vegetables and liquid, and the next day I added the beans, pasta and spinach. I did not use pesto, although I’m sure it would have been a great addition.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for bacon or pancetta with no nitrites added. You can make your own stock, or use an all-natural one, such as Imagine brand. I used PC Blue Menu white kidney beans and a white wine with a sulfite level lower than 10 parts per million. Make sure the bread has not additives; I used a baguette from Ace Bakery. Cheese can contain colour, so look for a brand with no colour added.

Bacon adds depth of flavour

This minestrone contains onion, garlic, carrots, squash and fresh herbs

Once the vegetables are tender, add the liquids and simmer 30 minutes

Just before serving, add spinach and stir until it wilts

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve


Good olive oil

4 ounces pancetta, ½-inch-diced

1½ cups chopped yellow onions

2 cups (½-inch) diced carrots (3 carrots)

2 cups (½-inch) diced celery (3 stalks)

2½ cups (½-inch) diced peeled butternut squash

1½ tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

26 ounces canned tomatoes

6 to 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti

8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup good dry white wine

2 tablespoons store-bought pesto Garlic Bruschetta (recipe follows)

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Garlic Bruschetta

1 baguette

Good olive oil

1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, add more chicken stock. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste. Serve large shallow bowls of soup with a bruschetta on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and serve hot. Serves 6 to 8.

For the Garlic Bruschetta: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the baguette at a 45-degree angle in 1/2-inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Take the slices out of the oven and rub the surface of each one with the cut clove of garlic.

From Foolproof by the Barefoot Contessa