Chicken does not belong in a good Minestrone soup! yes I know this. But it does add a little more bulk and flavor of course. Besides, I had some left over chicken that was begging me to be put to good use. So the chicken is totally optional here. Leave it out and you’ll have a wonderful Winter Minestrone soup….without the chicken. And this soup really is wonderful. It’s packed full of flavor from all the vegetables and pancetta. And if you have a left-over piece of Parmesan rind, please don’t throw it out, but instead toss it into the soup. Trust me, it brings this soup to a whole new level.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 russet potato, peeled and cubed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
28 ounces chicken stock (recommend homemade but can use store-bought)
1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind (if you have it on hand)
1 pound fresh baby spinach, lightly chopped if you desire
2 cups shredded pre-cooked chicken (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, pancetta and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes and saute for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Simmer until tomatoes starts to break down, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with 1/4 cup of the chicken stock in a food processor or blender until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining chicken stock and Parmesan rind to the vegetable mixture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer until the potatoes pieces are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the whole beans, baby spinach, pre-cooked chicken and parsley. Heat through until the spinach is wilting and the chicken is brought up to temperature. Remove the Parmesan rind and rosemary stem. Enjoy hot.
Source: adapted from Giada De Laurentiis