Here's to Vegetable Versatility
You don't have to be Italian to consider minestrone soup a comfort food. And, you don't have to spend hours in the kitchen preparing this classic when you have a Crock-Pot. It takes only 15 minutes to prep and you're ready to start cooking. But to get the true authentic minestrone soup, you'll need to do a little work during the last 20 minutes of cooking.
There's no right way to make minestrone soup, even in Italy. Minestrone actually means "big soup," as in big vegetable soup with ingredients that vary depending on the season and the region. Some versions are thick with veggies and others more focused on the broth. That means, anything works in a minestrone soup, making it a perfect addition to your rotating menu and a good way to clear out the fridge of leftover veggies.
Serve with crusty bread and you have a nutritious, filling meal your kids will find comforting on a brisk fall night.
Total Time: 8 to 9 hours | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 12
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (15-ounce) can navy beans
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- 2 cups pasta
- In a 6- to 8-quart Crock-Pot, add broth, canned tomatoes, navy beans, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, tomato paste, bay leaves, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover the Crock-Pot and cook on low heat for 7 to 8 hours.
- Before you serve, add spinach and pasta and stir. Cover and cook on high heat for 15 to 20 more minutes.
Although the recipe is vegetarian, you might prefer the flavor of beef or chicken broth.
If your kids can't wait the extra 15 minutes for the pasta to cook, pre-cook pasta the night before and keep it in the fridge, When you're ready to serve, add a handful of cold pasta to the soup bowl and pour in your hot soup to reheat.
As a soup with so many variations, you can use this recipe as a starting point to create your own family version. For example, you can replace the pasta with rice, being mindful to cook long enough so the rice is soft and tender. Or, spice it up a bit with red pepper flakes or a drop or two of your favorite hot sauce. Adding protein such as diced chicken, firm tofu or pancetta also makes a nice touch. And of course, the veggies. Use whatever you have in your fridge, such as summer squash, peppers, peas, corn or lima beans.
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.