One word, people. Yum. After last night’s bland dinner, this was perfect. Ina Garten does not skimp on the flavor.
As always, the longest part of the process is cutting the veggies. But this can be made in advance and refrigerated, so if it is a really busy night that might be a good solution. In my case, the amazing Lacie did all the chopping while I tried to catch up on my to-do list. I realize that admitting that might make you want to punch me. Saying it out loud kind of makes me want to punch myself. But I do feel like honesty is the best policy and I couldn’t possibly take credit for all that Lacie does to help us run this crazy house.
Back to the soup. I did make a few changes. First, I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. This change was initially intended to allow our budding vegetarian to eat the same dinner as the rest of us. Only problem was that I couldn’t think of a way around using the pancetta. The vegetable stock gave the soup a little sweetness. I did not use homemade but there is a great recipe for homemade vegetable stock in (wait for it) Williams-Sonoma’s Baby & Toddler Cookbook. If you have a little one at home, I highly recommend this book.
I didn’t have any Pomi tomatoes on hand (tragedy), so I used two cans of your basic chopped tomatoes. This resulted in 29 ounces instead of 26 ounces of tomato, but was perfectly fine. I still used all 8 cups of stock. I would recommend reducing the salt (one tablespoon seems like a lot) and I did increase the thyme. The soup was not as thick as perhaps it should have been (ummm, extra tomatoes maybe?) so I added another can of beans. After about an hour of cooking, I added the wine and pesto. Truth is, I did not use “good white wine” and I was worried that you would be able to taste the cheap stuff if I didn’t let it cook for a bit. This was a good move. I don’t think you need to cook the soup as long as I did. This was a tactical error based on my inability to read the calendar and know who was coming home when.
I did not add the pasta in until the very end when I added the spinach. I hate soggy pasta. Also, we used alphabet pasta in an effort to get the little kids to try a tomato based soup. It worked.
Overall, this is an excellent soup. Everyone voted it a winner, and even the little kids ate half a bowl. I would make this again in a heartbeat. Perfect for a cold, fall night.