Saturday, November 6, 2010

Slow Cooker Minestrone *with update*

Note: Pictures were taken a day or two after making this meal, when a lot of the liquid was soaked up by the vegetables. Still delicious, but not as soupy-looking for a blog picture.

Oh my goodness. You know, I love a good slow cooker meal. I really love a slow cooker meal that isn't mushy. I L.O.V.E. a slow cooker meal that has lots of vegetables, is easy to prepare, and isn't mushy.

Enter my new favorite slow cooker meal: Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup.

Seriously, try it. My general rule for slow cooker meals is th
at it can't include a ton of steps and prep-work. I usually need a slow cooker meal on a day that I'm really busy and so I need to throw and go. I was shocked (and thrilled) that because of the way this recipe is layed out, I could have everything done early in the day, but still have it taste like I had sat there babysitting it to make sure the carrots weren't overly done, etc. This is such a great meal for a cold day, or when you have company and don't have much time to cook. Or are trying to cut back on meat. Or you just need a delicious meal. Ah, let me count the reasons I will be making this recipe again and again and again.

Oh, and I didn't have dry sage, I skipped it and added some other seasonings that I had. I also skipped the spinach, but I'm sure it would be yummy anyway.

I did add some extra vegetables, I don't remember what, but whatever was in my fridge. Mine needed more liquid than the recipe called for, but yours may not. I also just made sure that I seasoned it to taste. I also doubled the recipe as I was making it for a group and it was wonderful!

Oh, and fresh mozzarella is a must. It just sang with the flavors.
Lastly, I chopped all the vegetables and cooked the pasta in the morning as I was throwing everything else in the slow cooker so that when I got home that afternoon, I could just literally throw them in the slow cooker and there was nothing else to do. It would be a great idea to make something like this the day after you have a short-cut pasta (like penne, rigatoni, or farfalle). Brilliant!

I just made this again the other day and realized that I did not mention or emphasize the changes in spices that I made. The recipe below is the original, but here are the spice changes that I made, which I think make ALL the difference:
1) I about tripled the sage, maybe more. Do it to taste.
2) I added dried oregano, which I thought was a nice compliment to the sage in a serious kind of way
3) I probably doubled the thyme in it as well.
4) Both times I added more liquid than it called for
Basically, I put in a ton more seasoning than the recipe calls for! Just do it to taste, but don't be afraid to add more, once I added more seasoning I realized it made all the difference.

5 stars. Love.

Recipe here and below.

Minestrone Soup with Pasta, Beans, and Vegetables

  • 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white (cannellini or navy) beans, drained
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked ditalini pasta (I used penne)
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen spinach, defrosted (I skipped this step)
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Basil sprigs, garnish, optional (I skipped this as well)


In a slow cooker, combine broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.

Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top. Garnish with basil, if desired.