Winter, especially these recent chilly days with rain or snow, is the perfect season for soup.  A bowl of comfort food is always appreciated, even more so at the end of a cold day.  This minestrone soup recipe hits the spot every single time.  We aim for meatless meals once to twice a week, and this one is very satisfying with its beans, pasta, and so many veggies.  A crusty slice of bread or square of cornbread would win over those people (ahem, my husband) who miss their meat.  No  surprise, I made a few alterations to meet the likings of our family, which I will share below.  Naturally dairy, gluten, soy, and nut-free, it’s a meal that can meet the needs of just about anyone’s diet.

Minestrone Soup

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To start, we use chicken broth instead of beef; not sure how much of a difference that makes.  Italian-style beans are traditional in Minestrone soup, so I use white beans (cannellini) or chickpea (garbanzo), and kidney beans.  As long as I have it, I add fresh spinach instead of frozen, chunks of fresh zucchini (which are so delicious in this soup), and green beans.  I always stir spinach (fresh or frozen) and zucchini into crockpot dishes about 20 minutes before the end of cooking time, otherwise they overcook and lose all of their nutrients.  Finally, I cook the (gluten-free) pasta separately and add a scoop as I serve the soup, so  it does not get gummy.  It’s great with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, or nutritional yeast if you’re dairy-free.

Kind of like chili, Minestrone can be customized to include your favorite beans, vegetables, and side accompaniments.  It’s one that the kids love, meat-craving husbands find satisfying, and I just adore a healthy bowl of warm vegetables and pasta.  A win-win dinner that cooks itself while you attend to your busy day.  Other than a sunny day in February, what else could you ask for?

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