TJ wanted to cook a “fancy” meal for us tonight. Since the weather was turning cold, we picked out a soup, Squash and Bean Minestrone, from the October 2013 issue of Bon Appetit.

Start by remove meat from ham hocks – if possible – and cut into large pieces. Set meat aside. Place 1 lb. dried navy beans and the ham bones in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover by 2″. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer 2-5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour.

After an hour, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in another large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add ham hock meat, 1 large chopped onion, 2 finely chopped leeks, 2 chopped celery stalks, and 2 chopped garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes.

Add 1 chopped butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), 1 lb. green beans, the navy beans and soaking liquid, 8 cups chicken broth, and ham hock bones to pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until navy beans are tender, 1 1/2–2 hours.

When soup is almost finished cooking, cook pasta (TJ chose ditalini) in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and add 1/4 cup parsley and toss to coat.

When it is time to serve, discard ham bones. Add 1 bunch of spinach and remaining 3/4 cup parsley to soup.

Divide soup among bowls. Add pasta and enjoy!!! Drizzle with some olive oil if desired.

This was definitely a labor of love but all of us appreciated TJ’s efforts in the kitchen. Perhaps we need a few more teacher workdays so that he can do some more cooking for all three of us!!

Squash and Bean Minestrone recipe