Warm Up with My Chunky Minestrone

chunky minestrone

What’s better than a steamy hot bowl of soup when the weather starts to cool down? A nice bowl of hot soup never fails to instantly warm me up on a chilly day. I love making a big pot and eating it all week for lunch or even having it for a light dinner. The thing about homemade soup is that there are no rules, you can add to it whatever you have on hand.

For me it always starts out with a heavy dose of vegetables, more variety than amount, one zucchini. a few carrots, a handful of peas, you get the picture, you don’t need a ton of each. I always have canned beans on my pantry shelf along with organic, low sodium chicken stock, as I write this I have seven boxes sitting on my shelf.

Don’t get me wrong I love making homemade chicken soup that has a rich, deep broth created from the bones of a whole chicken simmering on the stove for hours, but this is a quicker pot of soup that is just as comforting and nourishing and it’s chock full of chunky bite size vegetables and beans in a parmesan broth, and if you so desire, you can add in some mini meatballs and pasta, but you don’t have to, it can be strictly all vegetable.

a pot of chunky minestrone

Everything gets put into the pot at the same time, no sauteing anything ahead of time, you can literally throw it all together, quick and easy!

pasta, mini meatballs and cheese for minestrone

Since I make meatballs quite often around here I always roll up some mini ones to tuck away in my freezer during the fall and winter months, which is a good addition if you want to bulk up your soup. If I’m adding pasta, I always make it ahead of time and serve it on the side for those who want some added carbs, I never cook my pasta straight in the soup broth, I don’t like how it looks and tastes when it blows up and gets mushy, I prefer my pasta al dente.

Another thing you will always find in my freezer are parmesan rinds, I always save my own but mostly I pick up a couple of packages every time I go to my Whole Foods, very inexpensive, a couple of dollars for three or four in a package and usually they still have a lot of cheese attached, well worth the money, I use them all the time.

chunky minestrone soup

Please ditch those canned soups that are overly salty with ingredients you can’t identify, always make your own, your family will thank you.

chunky minestrone soup

Healthy and delicious, comfort in a bowl!

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4.8 from 4 reviews
Chunky Minestrone
Chunky good for you glorious vegetable soup with beans and wonderful parmesan broth, mini meatballs and pasta, optional
Recipe type: Soup
  • Each ingredient is roughly 1½ cups each, cut into chunky bite size pieces.
  • broccoli florets
  • cauliflower florets, ( if i had it I would have used it)
  • yellow and green zucchini, a combo of both
  • leek
  • onion
  • carrot
  • peas
  • celery
  • butternut squash
  • brussel sprout leaves, or cabbage, or any greens of your choice
  • potato, ( I opted to double the butternut squash, but you can do both)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 large crushed garlic cloves
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ can of butter beans, drained and rinsed ( butter beans are quite larger, if you can't find them do another bean of your choice)
  • a bunch of chopped parsley and some basil, or other seasoning you like
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 parmesan cheese rinds
  • 2 handfuls or so of grated parmesan or romano to toss into the broth when finished after removal of rinds, taste to your liking.
  • broth or stock, enough to cover all the vegetables and then some, you want enough so that when it's stirred it's loose, I used organic, low sodium, chicken stock in a box.
  • mini meatballs, precooked
  • pasta of your choice, precooked
  1. Throw everything into the pot, raw.
  2. Cover with broth, add spices and herbs.
  3. Simmer on low until veggies are cooked through but not mushy
  4. Turn off heat, remove cheese rinds.
  5. Add in grated cheese and stir, tasting for desired amount.
  6. Ladle into your bowl and top with cooked mini meatballs and/or pasta, optional



Butternut, Delicata, and Acorn Squash Gratin with Crispy Sage

winter squash gratin

Today I’m giving you a little inspiration for your Thanksgiving Day table, the holidays are right around the corner, so it’s time to start planning, can you believe it?

This deliciously creamy gratin combines three of my favorite winter squash, butternut, delicata and acorn.

winter squash gratin

They sit nice and pretty in a parmesan and garlic cream sauce and are adorned with crispy sage leaves, you couldn’t ask for a better combination of flavors!

winter squash

Besides tasting over the top amazing,  I love the presentation that happens by using the different squash shapes together.

winter squash

I pre-roasted my squash a little, then layered them into a buttered casserole dish.

winter squash gratin

The cream sauce is made ahead of time then carefully spooned all around the squash slices being careful to leave some squash peeking through, that’s what makes the presentation so pretty.

It’s a show stopper for the holiday season when we’re all allowed to indulge a little!

winter squash gratin

Wouldn’t this be dreamy sitting next to your Turkey this year?

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Butternut, Delicata, and Acorn Squash Gratin with Crispy Sage
A winter squash gratin, the perfect side dish for the holiday season or just to impress your guests.
  • 1 butternut squash, neck part only, skin removed, then cut into rounds
  • 1 delicata squash, skin on, then sliced into rings, remove pulp and seeds
  • 1 acorn squash, skin on, remove pulp and seeds, quarter it then make slices,
  • cut all squash about ¼ inch slices, not too thick and not too thin
  • 2 cups, heavy cream
  • 2 handfuls of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 finely grated garlic cloves, done on a microplane
  • ¾ stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage leaves
  1. I pre- roasted all the squash just to make sure it wouldn't be hard, on a baking sheet at 400 degrees, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, just until al dente, where it still had a little bite.
  2. After they cool place squash into a buttered 13x9 casserole dish. (these first two steps can be done the day before and refrigerated overnight, before adding cream sauce.) If you do it the day before, take it out and get it to room temp, before adding sauce.
  4. In a small sauce pan on low flame, add butter and garlic, just until garlic is fragrant, not brown, then add cream, salt and pepper too taste.
  5. Simmer cream sauce just until the edges start to bubble, then turn off the heat and let it set up for a minute.
  6. Add the Parmigiano, stir well, then spoon the cream sauce all around the squash in casserole dish, leaving some of the squash exposed but spreading it all around and in between.
  7. Place casserole dish into a 450 degree oven until bubbly and nicely golden, keep checking.
  8. Garnish with crispy sage leaves, by melting a tablespoon or two of butter in a small pan, when butter is hot throw the leaves in and they will start to sizzle and get crispy, remove immediately.



Polenta on a Board Topped with Butternut Squash and Mixed Mushrooms

polenta with mushroom and butternut squash

The weather has officially cooled down and now we’re well into the fall season, comfort foods are slowly creeping into my kitchen, and a meal that I love making in this cooler weather is, creamy warm polenta topped with pretty much anything.

I’ve posted polenta several times on this blog, but this time I’m serving it on a wooden board, yes a board, it’s casual, rustic, communal and a fun way to eat it.

Cook up your polenta, make it nice and creamy, then immediately pour it onto a wooden board, spread it around then top it with almost anything you can imagine. It’s the perfect base for sauteed greens, a nice meaty red sauce, roasted veggies, a wild mushroom ragu, even poached eggs, the list is endless!

You can use any size wooden cutting board that you might have, or buy a designated polenta board that is either round or a very long rectangle, both can be placed in the center of a table for a big polenta party, depending on the size you can either double or even triple the recipe, or you can use a pizza peel like I did, which is a good size for a smaller amount.

assorted raw mushrooms

I decided to top mine with oyster, crimini and beech mushrooms, I love the different variety of mushrooms I’m seeing all over.

roasted butternut squah

And of course butternut squash because they’re a match made in heaven!

roasted mushrooms with garlic and thyme

I roast both of the veggies ahead of the time and with the mushrooms I like to add some garlic and thyme.

polenta with mushroom and butternut squash

Place everything on top, put your board in the middle of the table, grab a spoon or a fork and dig in!

polenta with mushroom and butternut squash

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Polenta on a Board Topped with Butternut Squash and Mixed Mushrooms
A casual and fun way to eat creamy polenta!
  • 1 small butternut squash, cut into a small dice, then tossed in olive oil and pre-roasted on a sheet pan at 400 degrees until lightly golden
  • assorted mushrooms of your choice, at least 1½ lbs. pre-roasted at 400 degrees with 3 chopped garlic cloves and a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 cup of quick cooking polenta
  • 4 cups of liquid, I like to use 2 cups milk and 2 cups broth
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 handfuls of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • a little butter and olive oil
  1. Put the liquid and salt into a heavy pot, get it to boiling then reduce heat to a low simmer and whisk in the polenta, then get a wooden spoon and get stirring until nice and creamy.
  2. Take it off the stove add in a tablespoon of butter, a drizzle of olive oil and the cheese, stirring until incorporated.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Quickly spread onto your wooden board, then top with all your veggies.
  5. Drizzle more olive oil on top, and a little more grated cheese, serve immediately