For what it’s worth, it’s freezing cold today. It’s the warmest part of the day (warm being a relative term, of course), and we’re still in the negative double digits with wind chill. Repeat: the negative double digits. That’s a biting Arctic blast, as the folks at Weather.com are helpfully pointing out from their tropical stronghold. The good, the bad, the deceiving thing about having feet of snow still on the ground (though mercifully off the roads) is that it makes everything so bright. It’s like a bottle of teeth whitening solution exploded over the entire town, and some people (like me! People like me!) still associate winter with dark, dreary days and summer with bright, sunny ones. So from this side of the window, it looks warm out. Rays of sunshine beam in through our curtains every morning. Driving — that is, crunching over layers of frozen snow — requires sunglasses. It is all very misleading.
There is an upside to all of this. When I came in from the cold earlier today, I had a brain wave. It began with the craving, nay, the need for soup, the absolute requirement of having a steaming bowl of thick, hot liquid to stick my face into. I remembered I had some cooked, unused cavatappi pasta curls sitting in the refrigerator from last night. I had just bought an extra can of diced tomatoes at the grocery store. You get the idea. The Heavens aligned, the sky parted, the angels sang, and I cobbled together a hearty pot of Italian Minestrone Soup for lunch.
I put more carrots than celery, and more onion than carrot, because that is my flavor preference. Most minestrone recipes include potato, but I thought the beans and pasta would make it hearty (and carb-happy!) enough on their own. And, of course, since soups are so jolly and flexible, you could add any veggies you prefer — chopped up zucchini, spinach, leeks, they’d all be great.
With soup down, there’s chili for dinner. I think we may just live to see the end of the Arctic cold front. It’s supposed to be unaccountably balmy this weekend — highs in the 40s! — and I can’t wait.
- 5 slices of bacon, diced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and diced
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can Cannelli beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
- 4 cups chicken stock, more as needed
- Bay leaf, several stalks of thyme, salt, and pepper
- 2 oz. piece Parmesan cheese rind
- 2 cups cooked pasta, elbow or similar
Heat up a large, heavy pot (like a le Creuset) and add diced bacon. Cook until crispy and remove from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat behind. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook until tender, about ten minutes. Add the garlic and pour in the can of tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes begin to lose their shape, about ten more minutes.
Meanwhile, blitz together 3/4 cup of the beans with 1/4 cup of stock in a blender or food processor until nearly smooth. Add to the pot, along with the rest of the chicken stock, the rind of cheese, and the herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook 10 to 15 minutes. (If making in advance, turn of the heat and let sit until needed.)
Before serving, remove bay leaf and cheese rind. Add cooked pasta and rest of the beans. Simmer two minutes to heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Top each bowl with pieces of crispy bacon and a flurry of Parmesan.