Autumn Minestrone Soup

Autumn Minestrone Soup is a spin on classic minestrone soup with kabocha squash, kale, and pancetta.  Make it gluten free with quinoa rice, or gluten free pasta, and  top with parmesan and serve with your favorite side for a healthy, satisfying meal.

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Happy Fall!  I’m so excited that it’s officially my favorite time of year.  Time to roll out the red carpet for pumpkin (as if I haven’t already), apple, pear, winter squash, kale, and so many more of my faves.  It’s still hot here, but I was bound and determine to make an autumn inspired soup for today.  I was sweatin’ bullets when I ate it, but I finally got my soup. 🙂

I’ve really been craving soups and chili despite the heat here, and seeing so many great recipes out there for cold weather food has not been helping.  I’m not complaining about our beautiful weather here in CA, I just wish it was a smidge cooler.  That would enable me to further enjoy this soup.   I’ve been making side dishes like Buttery Maple Skillet Cornbread and Tender Buttery Sweet Potato Biscuits, which would be perfect for this soup, but now I’ve got a big batch of soup with no side.  Talk about being backwards. 😉

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I love minestrone because it’s so hearty, but quite honestly, getting a good minestrone can be tough.  I like mine loaded with veggies and beans, but I don’t care for a lot of potato or pasta.  This autumn minestrone is jam packed with veggies, but it’s not vegetarian.  I added pancetta, because I love the meaty flavor that it lends.  For even more flavor, I added fresh thyme, crushed rosemary, and a bay leaf, along with a chunk of parmesan cheese rind.  Talk about flavor. 🙂

It’s time to talk about my love of kabocha squash.  Last year I made Kabocha Squash Yukon Gold Mash and Pumpkin Soup with Porcini Cream, and just fell in love with the stuff.  Perhaps you’ve seen the small, dark green pumpkins and wondered what they were?  That’s kabocha squash.  Basically it’s a pumpkin, but it’s somewhat starchy like potato, which makes it perfect in mash and soups.

It can be a bit hap-hazard trying to cut it, but it can be done with a good, sharp knife.  I normally place it on a cutting board right side up, and cut from the top middle, down the side, away from myself.  You can work your way around the other side and crack it open pretty easily.  Scoop out the seeds, cut each half into 4-5 large wedges, lay them on their sides, and cut the peel off from top to bottom.  It takes about 10-15 minutes, but I promise you, you’re going to love this stuff!  If you’re not comfortable messing around with that, you can always substitute it for butternut squash or sweet potato.

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I thought it would be fun to swap the pasta out altogether and go with a nice, hearty grain.  Farro is just that, and it’s nutritious and it has very low gluten content.  I love it’s nuttiness, and it was a delicious addition to the autumn flavors.  If you don’t have farro and you’re gluten intolerant, you could substitute rice, quinoa, or even gluten free pasta — just bear in mind the cooking time for different grains will vary.  If you don’t follow a gluten free diet, pearl barley or pasta are great substitutes.

If you’re looking for a healthy way to ring in fall, this is it.  Serve it with freshly grated parmesan and your favorite side, and you’ve got yourself a meal that will give you that warm, cozy feeling from the inside out.  Here’s to fall! 🙂

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Autumn Minestrone Soup {GF}
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Autumn Minestrone Soup is a spin on classic minestrone with kabocha squash, kale, pancetta, and farro instead of pasta. It's hearty, satisfying, and gluten free!
Serves: 10-12 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, coarsely chopped into ¼" pieces
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, and coarsely chopped into ¼" pieces
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta (I used packaged diced pancetta)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups kabocha squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into ½" cubes*
  • 1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, roughly chopped (I used San Marzano)
  • 4 cups chicken stock*
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed with your fingers
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup farro*
  • (1) 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • (1) 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch of kale, tough stems removed and chopped*
  • 1" piece of parmesan cheese rind
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta, and cook until the onions are translucent and the vegetables have softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add the kabocha squash and sauté 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Add the farro and cook about 10 minutes. Add the beans, kale, and parmesan cheese rind, and simmer about 10-15 more minutes, or until the farro is cooked. Remove the cheese rind, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve garnished with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and enjoy!
Notes
Total time above includes 10 minutes to break down a whole kabocha squash.

*Kabocha squash may be substituted with butternut squash or sweet potato.

*The chicken stock may be substituted for vegetable stock. To make this soup vegetarian, simply omit the pancetta and use vegetable stock.

*The farro may be substituted with gluten free pasta. quinoa or rice, but the cooking time may vary. If you don't follow a gluten free diet, regular pasta or pearl barley would be great substitutions as well.

*I had pre-chopped my kale and frozen it prior to making the soup, and simply rinsed it with water to thaw it quickly. I wrung out the excess water and tossed it in. You can also substituted fresh or frozen spinach.

Recipe by Flavor the Moments.