Right, where were we? November! That is right. As I look out of my window it is sunny with a sharp blue sky, a light wind is teasing the leaves, bot h golden brown and stubbornly green. Regardless of how unseasonally nice it is, November is still all about fires (if you are lucky enough to have one, I don’t, but I have my Big Green Egg), cheese toasties (so many variations) and soups, stews and rich ragus with supple slicks of fresh pasta. I always love a pop of fire within too in the form of sparks of chilli or a smear of chilli oil. I can’t bear anything flat, I need some brightness.
I tend to turn to Italian soups right now, specifically minestre, a chunky soup with vegetables, pasta or rice, and beans often. You will have heard of minestrone (a version of, which must have a thickening vegetable in it), and one of my favourites, pasta e fagiole. I turn often to pasta e patate too (pasta with potatoes, stay with me, it is awesome) and a version that I like to make with pumpkin. The basis of these are a good stock and a good pasta. I like to go off piste and Irish-ise it with a lick of cream too. Off piste can be a happy place, I like to go there.
I have a gorgeous pumpkin in my garden, still growing. It is of the giant pumpkin family but it isn’t giant because to grow large it wants a lot of chicken manure (or similar!) that I don’t have ready access to. But it is gorgeous and I can’t wait to eat it. Before I do, I have an onion squash that requires my attention. What pasta shape to use? Whatever you have. I like a small firm plump pasta like ditalini, but broken spaghetti (in small bits) works very well too.
This soup is really more of a pasta with broth. Feel free to add more if you want to be a bit more soup-y. It will always be good.
- 40g smoked streaky bacon or pancetta (approx 2 slices)
- 1 small onion (approx 50g), peeled and halved then finely sliced
- 150g diced peeled pumpkin or squash
- 75g dried pasta (I used ditalini)
- 1 mild chilli, finely chopped (seeds optional depending on how hot you want it)
- 2 handfuls of kale (stripped from the coarse stems)
- 350 ml chicken stock (or veg)
- 50ml single (heavy) cream
- oil for frying (I used extra virgin olive oil)
Sauté the bacon over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add a tablespoon of oil, and add the onion. Cook for a further 5 minutes over a low - medium heat until softening.
Add the pumpkin and chilli and stir through. Allow to cook for 2 minutes. Add the pasta and stir through so that it cosies up with the other flavours.
Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to cook until the pasta is almost cooked (the pumpkin should be done now too).
Add the kale and stir through. It should soften in a minute or so. Stir through the cream and leave for a further minute.
Season to taste and serve immediately.
Use a saucepan for this, enough to accommodate a couple of bowls of soup.