Thanksgiving has come and gone in a flurry of cooking and activity. My jeans are noticeably resisting the call to stretch an additional half-inch and my refrigerator shelves sag with container after container of leftovers. That’s what a week’s worth of gluttony will do. Now that my folks and my kids are gone, I’m back to simpler and healthier cooking. Last night I made this easy vegetarian minestrone soup – just the thing my body craved. Here’s Todd Wilbur’s, the king of copy cat recipes, version of Olive Garden’s Minestrone Soup.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced white onion (about 1 small onion)
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup frozen cut Italian green beans
1/4 cup minced celery (about 1/2 stalk)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
4 cups vegetable broth (Swanson is good *note: Do not use chicken broth!*)
2 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained
2 (15 ounce) cans small white beans or 2 (15 ounce) cans great northern beans, drained
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup carrot, julienned or shredded
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups hot water
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup small shell pasta
1. Heat three tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot.
2. Saute onion, celery, garlic, green beans, and zucchini in the oil for 5 minutes or until onions begin to turn translucent.
3. Add vegetable broth to pot, plus drained tomatoes, beans, carrot, hot water, and spices.
4. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Add spinach leaves and pasta and cook for an additional 20 minutes or until desired consistency.
6. Makes about eight 1 1/2 cup servings.
1. I used 1 cup of diced zucchini, because I like more vegetables than normally called for and why waste half of a zucchini?
2. The green beans and spinach I put in long enough to cook through, but just before serving. I wanted them to maintain their fresh green color and not become overcooked.
3. I could not find frozen Italian green beans, so I used plain frozen cut green beans.
4. I added 1/3 cup of chopped celery instead of the 1/4 cup called for.
5. I used store bought shredded carrots. I washed them first and cut off an occasional dark end. Again, I added a little more carrots than called for.
6. Because canned broth contains a lot of sodium, I added only 1 teaspoon of salt figuring I could always add more if needed.
7. I also added 1- 8 ounce can of tomato sauce.
8. Although dried herbs are convenient, I used the fresh thyme and oregano growing in my yard.
9. If I were to make this ahead or for company, I would do everything as indicated except for the addition of the zucchini, green beans, spinach, and pasta. To maintain their color and texture, I would add the vegetables about thirty minutes before serving. To prevent the pasta from getting mushy consider precooking it al dente and then tossing it in long enough to get heated through before serving.