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Autumn Minestrone Soup

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In the Pantry Challenge video series, Lauren Braun Costello -- chef, author and food stylist -- shows busy moms how to make meals using ingredients they already have in their pantries, solving their unique cooking challenges. In this episode, Lauren shows Aimee R., a mother of two and a PR executive, how to cook a meal for the whole family that even her infant daughter can eat.

The great thing about a minestrone, Lauren says, is that you can really use any vegetables you want. In her soup, Lauren will combine butternut squash, rutabega, carrots, celery, onions, and kale -- a leafy green that is packed with both flavor and nutrition. To kick things off, Lauren peels the rutabega like she would peel a potato, and dices it into 1/2-inch cubes. (She recommends working with the flat side down, which provides more stability for cutting.) Next, she removes the kale's tough stems, extracting just the leaves, and rolls them into small tubes to cut into chiffonade pieces. (Click here for a video on how to perform a chiffonade cut.) Then, Lauren peels the butternut squash, which is a little more resistant to the knife than the rutabega, until she's exposed the bright yellow-orange innards. She chops the squash into 1/2-inch cubes, too.

Now Lauren is ready to start sauteeing her vegetables. She adds olive oil to a pre-heated pot, followed by onion, rutabega, butternut squash, celery, carrots, margarine and spices. She gives the vegetables a stir, turns the heat up to medium and adds just a dash of salt and pepper. After about 5 or 10 minutes, when the onions have softened, adds the white cannelini beans, canned tomatoes, chopped kale and about 12 cups of store-bought chicken stock. She then raises the temperature to a high, bringing the soup to a gentle boil, before adding in pasta and a sprinkle more of salt. (You can always add more salt later.) She lets the soup cup for 15 to 20 minutes, by which time the pasta will be plump and the vegetables will be very tender.

To make dinner for Aimee's baby, Lauren spoons out some of the more baby-friendly vegetables, like carrots, butternut squash and the white beans, and mashes them with a fork until they are nicely pureed. Now, Aimee is ready to enjoy a hearty minestrone soup with her family, and will no extra effort, she's made some homemade baby food, too.

Get the Recipe for Autumn Minestrone Soup.