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Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale and White Beans {How We Eat on a Budget}

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Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans is the Madison Farmers Market turned into a big pot of warm autumn comfort.

Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash

If you follow The Law Student’s Wife on Instagram or Facebook, each Saturday morning you can count on a flood of gorgeous farmers market images: bright flowers, crates bursting with ripe 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 autumn farmers market love story.

Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash

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 ever since adding roasted carrots to my grilled cheese, these orange lovelies have been on my weekly farmers market purchase list too.

Minestrone with Butternut Squash, Carrots, Kale, Bacon, and White Beans Combine fall 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, and we have a steaming pot of satisfying autumn bounty.

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. (This Warm Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Kamut Salad is my latest bacon-kissed obsession.)
  • 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. As I mentioned in my post for Quick Garlic Pasta, I buy big blocks of Trader Joe’s-brand Parmesan ($6.49 per pound), then grate them in my food processor. The taste vs. 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

Segue into one of my final dollarini-saving principle: Coupons! You know those annoying coupons that get printed at the Target register? If it’s something you ordinarily buy, stuff it into your purse and use it. I’m by no means one of those insane coupon ladies (I lack both the storage space and the energy), but I love me a good deal, and if a coupon will give me a few additional pennies for my cheese allowance, it’s worth the effort.

Today, I’m excited to share a coupon that is good for the rest of the month: $2 off California Olive Ranch Olive Oil. Give California Olive Ranch olive oil a try anytime this month, and if you don’t like it, California Olive Ranch will buy it as a part of its Taste Guarantee campaign. You’ve got nothing to lose and yummy olive oil to gain. You can also share your experience with olive oil and healthy eating by Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking, and all around living up pics of you and your fam gathered around the table with hashtag #tasteguarantee. Spread the olive oil love, and pass me more bread for dunking!

California Olive Ranch - Taste Guarantee - Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash

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

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 6-8

Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale and White Beans

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces bacon, ½-inch-diced (4-5 slices)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for toasting the bread and serving
  • 3 cups (½-inch) diced peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound)
  • 2 cups (½-inch) diced carrots (4 carrots)
  • 2 cups (½-inch) diced celery (3 stalks)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1 and ½ tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 pound kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 26 ounces canned chopped tomatoes
  • 6 to 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional as needed (depending upon the saltiness of the stock)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups cooked whole wheat small pasta, such as elbow (about 1 cup dry)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • Baguette, cut into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Notes

Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Beans makes fabulous leftovers! Store in your refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

http://www.thelawstudentswife.com/2013/10/minestrone-soup/

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof by Ina Garten, a book I love and recommend.

Disclosure: California Olive Ranch compensated me for my time to create this recipe and post. All opinions are 100% my own.

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Author: Erin Clarke

I'm Erin, and I'm on a mission to cook everything that's tasty, {mostly} healthy, and budget-friendly—all while Mr. Right is in the library. I'm convinced that cheese and chocolate are the answer, that you can love sweets and veggies equally, and that delicious, satisfying food should be accessible to everyone. The recipes here are affordable, approachable, and delectable, and I can't wait to share them with you!

66 Comments

  1. Oh, this is such a hearty, gorgeous soup Erin!! What time is dinner?

  2. I love this soup Erin!! Especially with the butternut squash – I can’t stop buying it right now! I’ve been incorporating more meatless meals (with beans for protein) into our weekly routine and it helps our budget so much! And I finally have my husband on board – he used to like to protest any meatless meals – just because – no real reason other than the fact that he likes meat : )

  3. Such a great autumn soup! I love all the flavors and that it’s farmers market friendly :)

  4. Yum! Looks like a fabulous soup- perfect for these fall days! :) Picking up some olive oil today!

  5. I loved your budget-friendly-food tips – I do many of the same things in my house! I am definitely going to have to try this soup very soon.

  6. That soup is gorgeous but your soup pot is beautiful too!! I cna’t wait to make this!

  7. PS I am so jealous of the Madison farmer’s market. It’s incredible!

  8. What a lovely post, thank you for all those tips, I’m sure they’ll be really helpful!
    I love fresh seasonal produce, so this soup looks fantastic for me. I’ve been wanting to give Minestrone a try for years, so I’m definitely trying this soon!
    p.s: 0.20$ per pound?? I bought a pound of butternut squash a few days ago and it costed a bit over 2 euros! :O

  9. As a ‘segue,’ I now have a hilarious image in my head of you riding around on a Segway with a stack of coupons in hand (sorry, i still haven’t gotten over my horrible performances in grade school spelling bees, and am doing my best to make up for them now :) Soup looks great dear–might try it tonight! I’ve got lots of chard in my garden that’s in danger of freezing. Easy substitute for kale, right?

    • OMG I AM DYING OF EMBARASSMENT, hahahaha. Thank you for saying something! This is what happens when you finish your post at 12:38 am after stuffing your face with cheese for 3 days straight, lol. Though I have to say, a segway would be a very efficient way to grocery shop ;-)
      Jealous of your chard! It’s a perfect substitute. Funny thing is, chard is what I’d originally planned for this soup, but the fresh kale seduced me. Hope you love it!

  10. Beans, kale, squash, pasta, this sounds like my kind of soup! It is so pretty and perfect for company. I wish we went to our farmer’s market, although I’d probably buy more than I could cook with! :)

  11. Soups are one of my favorite things in the fall! It is all gray and rainy here today, and I love nothing more than a big bowl of this soup and some nice, crusty bread. Yum!

  12. I love a hearty soup filled with seasonal veggies! This sounds perfect, Erin!

  13. Love this recipe for Minestrone soup! Nothing like a hearty veggie soup to warm you up this fall : )

  14. ” And bacon because life is short” I love you for that sentence. ha ha ha. What a fantastic pot of soup!! I love butternut squash and I tend to opt for chard over kale – but kale is excellent in hearty soups like this! I also love that your stock pot is a perfect color match for the soup – nicely done!!

  15. Fascinating fact about the olive juice—er, oil. I’ll definitely start looking for a date on the label!

  16. Here’s a dirty little secret that I learned 39,345,823 years ago in my college food science course. When the big named companies (let’s say Del Monte for example), cans their green beans, they are scheduled to make X many cans. At the end of production of said # of cans, they still have green beans left over. They aren’t going to start production again, so they can them with no label on them and then they are sold as the generic brand. So, you are probably getting the same bean that’s generic as was sold under the Del Monte brand (Note: Del Monte is just a brand I can think up at this moment in time. I’m not implying that every generic bean is actually Del Monte). Anyway, I’ve always remembered that and have never had any real problems with generic veggies. :) This soup looks quite yummy. :)

  17. Carrots rock – they are my fav orange veg and the best part is the are not seasonal :)
    Now to this colorful soup – LOVE the mix of flavors in your minestrone, lady! Thanks for sharing this budget friendly recope

  18. I love budget meals! I think my tastebuds naturally prefer cheap foods because my favorite foods are lentils and beans, hehe!
    Did we talk about Dave Ramsey yet? Omg we’re so into him!

  19. this soup looks yummy and I cant wait to try it. I saw you have bay leaf in here. That has become one of my favorite herbs – it adds such density of flavor. But I notice a huge difference btw fresh vs dried bay leaves. Folowing your economical theme of today’s blog – I buy fresh and then freeze them (using an old spice jar) since most recipes call for only 1 or 2 leaves. This is one fresh herb that holds up wonderfully and remains fresh tasting
    after freezing

  20. What a lovely soup! I agree with all your points, especially knowing what to splurge on and what not to. Olive oil, good parm, and balsamic vinegar are 3 that I’m willing to spend a little more. But other than that? It’s seasonal produce, coupon clipping, and off brands all the way!

  21. This looks amazing – I’m obsessed with soups these days! And the cheese on top? A woman after my own heart!

  22. As a poor writer, this post speaks to me and it’s saying slurp me!

  23. Your money-saving tips are spot-on…and this soup looks pretty much like perfection too. There is nothing like a hearty bean and veggie stew during the cooler days of fall. Thanks for sharing Erin!

  24. A heart and warming soup! With a few slices of pumpkin bread, this would make a fantastic dinner for me.

  25. I just love going to the farmer’s market too!! So much goodness, it’s hard to ever just pick a few things! ;) This soup looks so colorful and tasty!!

  26. Great post and I LOVE this soup! YUM.

  27. I love going to farmer’s markets too because I love supporting the locals. Minestrone is a classic and yours looks gorgeous. So many lovely colors and fresh veggies. :)

  28. Yum! Great minds think a like… I just made a big pot of minestrone soup last weekend with butternut squash and bacon in it! I love making a big pot of soup to really help stretch the grocery budget!

  29. Really like the photography on your site Erin, theres chatter at PicnicShop HQ that this could be some of the best soup we’ve seen!

    Some of your soup in a Thermos on a long walk would go down SO well.

    Thanks!
    The PicnicShop Team

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