• Slow cooker minestrone

    Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

    Minestrone is a thick soup containing vegetables and pasta. The word originated from the Italian language word minestrare, which means to serve. According to the Princeton.edu website:

    Some of the earliest origins of minestrone soup pre-date the expansion of the Latin tribes of Rome into what became the Roman Republic and later Roman Empire, when the local diet was “vegetarian by necessity” and consisted mostly of vegetables, such as onions, lentils, cabbage, garlic, fava beans, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus and turnips.

    It wasn’t until the 2nd century B.C., when Rome had conquered Italy and monopolized the commercial and road networks, that a huge diversity of products flooded the capital and began to change their diet, and by association, the diet of Italy most notably with the more frequent inclusion of meats, including as a stock for soups.

    This vegan recipe makes enough hearty soup to feed four hungry people. Best of all, it is easy to make and the slow cooker brings out the best in both the vegetables and the herbs. Make it first thing in the morning and reheat for dinner.

    4 cups vegetable broth
    2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
    1½ cups water
    2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
    3 stalks celery (diced)
    2 large carrots (diced)
    1 small yellow onion (diced)
    1 tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped)
    2 teaspoons dried basil
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    ½ teaspoon dried thyme
    1 teaspoon fresh rosemary (chopped)
    2 bay leaves
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1 small zucchini (diced)
    1 1/3 cups dried orecchiette pasta
    4 cloves garlic (minced)
    1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
    1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
    1 (14.5 oz) can Italian green beans (drained)
    12 ounces fresh baby spinach

    Add vegetable broth, bouillon, water, tomatoes, celery, carrots, onion, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves to a slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on high for 3 – 4 hours.

    Add in zucchini, pasta, garlic, kidney beans and cannellini beans and cook on high heat for an additional 55 to 60 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir in green beans and spinach and cook for several minutes more or until green beans are heated through. Look for and remove the bay leaves before serving.

    Serve with fresh, crusty French bread.

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