Overflowing with vegetables and brimming with nourishing and wholesome fats, this winter Minestrone makes for a nutrient-dense supper during the darkest days of the year.
Ingredients for Winter Minestrone
•    1 cup dried cannellini beans, rinsed and picked over – optional
•    1 tablespoon cider vinegar
•    1 cup dried brown rice macaroni noodles – optional
•    ¼ cup lard, bacon fat or ghee
•    1 yellow onion, finely chopped
•    3 garlic cloves, minced
•    3 carrots, chopped
•    3 celery stalks, chopped
•    2 tablespoons dried basil
•    1 tablespoon dried oregano
•    1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
•    2 quarts homemade roast chicken stock or homemade beef stock
•    1 cup pureed or crushed tomatoes
•    1 bunch Swiss chard, de-veined and sliced into 1/2 –inch strips
•    Unrefined sea salt to taste
•    Unrefined extra virgin olive oil, Italian flat leaf parsley and parmesan cheese to serve
Method for Winter Minestrone
If you choose to include the cannelloni beans in the soup:
1.    The day before you plan to serve the soup, prepare the cannelloni beans by completely submerging the beans in a mixture of very warm and 1 tablespoon cider vinegar.  Cover and place in a warm spot to soak for approximately twenty-four hours.
2.    After the beans have soaked for one day, drain and rinse them. Boil them in water until they’re tender and soft. After they’re thoroughly cooked and tender, about 60 to 90 minutes, remove them from heat drain, rinse and set aside.
If you choose to include the brown rice pasta in the soup:
1.    Boil the brown rice pasta until tender, but somewhat firm and set aside.
1.    Heat lard, bacon fat or ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot over a medium-high flame until melted and sizzling.
2.    Add chopped onion and fry until fragrant and translucent.
3.    Add minced garlic, chopped carrots, chopped celery and cubed butternut squash to the onion and fry until fragrant.
4.    Stir the dried basil and oregano into the vegetable mixture .
5.    Pour two quarts chicken or vegetable stock into the pot, taking care to stir and scrape the pot with a metal spatula to dislodge any flavorful bits of vegetables that may be stuck to its bottom.
6.    Stir in crushed or pureed tomatoes.  Freezing retains more nutrients than canning, and avoids the risks associated with BPA, which is a plasticizer with endocrine-disrupting effects.
7.    Simmer the broth, pureed tomatoes and vegetables together for thirty minutes or so.
8.    Remove the minestrone soup from heat.  Stir in the cooked cannellini beans (optional), cooked brown pasta (optional) and sliced Swiss chard.
9.    Season to taste with unrefined sea salt.
10.    Cover the soup allow it to sit (removed from heat) for approximately five to ten minutes, which melds the flavors and allows the Swiss chard to wilt slightly.
11.    Serve with chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, unrefined extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan or Asiago cheese.
YIELD: Approximately 8 to 12 servings
TIME: 24 hours (soaking) plus 2 hours (preparation and cooking time)
NOTES: This recipe is fabulous with or without the brown rice pasta or cannelini beans.  If you choose to include them, brown rice is very low in phytic acid; an antinutrient that binds minerals preventing their full absorption, which is why I’ve included brown rice pasta in this recipe. For this reason, do not substitute whole wheat pasta unless you prepare it yourself using a sprouted flour or a recipe for sourdough noodles. I encourage you to cook the beans separately and add them to the soup later because doing so improves the flavor of the soup.
Recipe adapted from The Nourished Kitchen (www.nourishedkitchen.com)