Winter Squash & Veggie Minestrone

Chef Mark Leslie
Chef Mark Leslie

Winter Squash and Vegetable Minestrone 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small to medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced into 1/2-inch-thick cubes

2 cups diced squash (such as Pie Pumpkin, Sweet Dumpling, Acorn, or Butternut)
in 1/2- inch-thick cubes

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 6- to 8-inch sprig fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 cups canned, low-sodium chicken stock (homemade chicken stock is preferred)

1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 small- to medium-sized zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch-thick half rounds

2 cups, firmly packed, chopped collard greens (shredded cabbage may be substituted)

2 tomatoes, deseeded, diced into 1/2-inch-thick cubes

1/2 cup ditalini, tubetti, or other small-shaped pasta

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. When hot, add the onion and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onion has started to turn translucent. Add potatoes, squash, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, stirring well to combine. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the potatoes and squash just start to color. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the beans, zucchini, collards and tomatoes, stirring until combined. Return to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low again and simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir in the pasta and cook, uncovered, for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente – tender, but firm to the bite. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkle of grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil as garnish.

Serves 6 to 10 servings.

Mark Leslie, recently seen on NBC's Today Show, loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him.  His first book, Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family, tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother.  He shares his food experiences on his blog at  A Chicago-area native and "Yankee" by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!

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