There's still a few weeks of winter to make a big pot of hearty soup, and especially this filling minestrone soup.
I love this easy and forgiving recipe of Italian origin, as you don't have to worry about perfect measurements. It's friendly enough to change out vegetables and beans, such as exchanging green beans for cannellini beans, adding a few leaves of baby spinach or Swiss chard, and even playing with different shapes of pasta like shells, rotini, or orecchietti.
If you prefer vegetarian style, use vegetable broth and leave out the meat. Instead of lean ground beef, you can swap out and use turkey burger. The recipe also makes a lot of soup, so you can easily split the recipe in half, or make the full recipe and freeze half. The prep time is about 15 minutes. Put it in the crock pot and walk away.
1 lb lean ground beef
2 whole carrots, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can crushed/chopped tomatoes
2 cans (14.5 oz each) beef broth or fresh beef stock
2 whole bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup ditalini pasta (or similar shape), uncooked
Grated Parmesan cheese and/or shredded mixture of Italian cheeses to top
Instructions: Place in 6-quart slow cooker all of the above ingredients except beans, pasta, and cheese. Break up the raw ground beef with spoon. Stir. Cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Towards the last 30 minutes of cooking add the drained beans and desired pasta. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Cook until pasta is al denta. Serve and top finished bowls of soup with cheese. You may even want to add on the side hunks of toasted garlic bread.