- 6 ounces bacon or turkey bacon, chopped (about 6 slices)
- 1 1/2 cups diced celery (5-6 stalks)
- 1 1/2 cups diced carrots (3-4 carrots)
- 1 cup chopped yellow or white onions
- 2 1/2 cups diced butternut squash (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 large can (28-ounces) crushed tomatoes
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup small pasta shells
- 10 ounces chopped, fresh baby spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons pesto
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Garlic Bread
- In a large pot, cook the bacon until lightly browned and crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate, leaving a bit of bacon grease in the pot.
- Add the, celery, carrots onions, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions.
- Add beans, pesto and spinach. Heat through. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Add any additional chicken broth if the soup is too thick (FYI: we like it on the thick side).
- Serve with the reserved bacon, slices of toasted garlic bread, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of the soup.
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