Turkey, White Bean, and Spinach Soup

There are a few "givens" when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving -- the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning, turkey as the star of the meal, the post meal food coma, and of course, the refrigerator full of leftover turkey, side dishes, and dessert. Thanksgiving leftovers are quite possibly  as anticipated as much as the actual meal itself a win-win situation whoever you are -- those who don’t like to cook are covered at lunch and dinner (or breakfast – leftover pie is a completely acceptable breakfast option) and for those of us who like to cook, Thanksgiving leftovers provide a great opportunity to use classic dishes as a starting point to create more inventive recipes. As much as I love planning the traditional Thanksgiving menu, figuring out what to do with the leftovers is the most fun part.

A few of my favorite ways to use up leftovers, if you’re looking for some inspiration:

-Leftover mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes can be formed into pancakes and fried in a little butter and olive oil to make savory pancakes, good as a side dish or on their own with a salad.

-Leftover roast potatoes are great in a frittata.

-Leftover cranberry sauce is delicious stirred in to cake or muffin batter to make a cranberry swirl cake or muffins, or used as a topping for pancakes or waffles.

-Leftover roasted squash is great stirred in to pasta or risotto (post and recipe forthcoming!)

-Leftover turkey and mashed potatoes make a great shepherd’s pie – use the turkey in the filling and the potatoes as the topping.

-Leftover turkey is also great in a pot pie, in chili, in a hash for breakfast, in a wrap, in quesadillas or enchiladas, or most traditionally, used to make a turkey sandwich – my favorite is a turkey BLT. Or, in soup, the star of today's post.

Most people feel a little on the overstuffed side the day after Thanksgiving, and are looking for something on the lighter side. This soup manages to be filling but not too heavy, and is full of healthy ingredients like white beans and spinach. It is a great cozy dish to combat the cold weather, especially if you’re in Rhode Island, where heavy snow has been forecast for today (happy to be living in Rome on days like this!) Note that this recipe is also fairly flexible; you can use kale or any other green instead of spinach, use a different pasta shape, use chickpeas instead of white beans, and if you aren’t making this the day after Thanksgiving, feel free to use chicken instead of turkey. Enjoy everyone!


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ounces pancetta, chopped 
6 cups chicken broth 
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup ditalini pasta
2 cups spinach
Leftover turkey, chopped (however much you want)
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving


Heat the olive oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, white beans, and rosemary and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer the soup for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender or blender, puree 2 cups of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth – be very careful when you do this, as the soup will be hot. Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the ditalini and boil until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 9 minutes. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary. Stir in the spinach and turkey, and let cook until the spinach wilts. Season the soup with pepper and salt to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with some Parmesan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil just before serving. Serves 6.  

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