by Crystal Sands
The first soup I learned how to make was Minestrone. I had never liked soup before having some Minestrone in a small Italian restaurant. I grew up on canned soup and always thought soup was a little “meh” at best.
Once I tried Minestrone, I really wanted to learn how to make it. Interestingly, Minestrone was the first soup I ever made for my husband. He made the best bread. I could make a good Minestrone. It was a good match.
In recent years, I have adapted my Minestrone, which literally means “thick vegetable soup” in Italian, to include more of the vegetables my husband grows in our organic garden. I use our homemade spaghetti sauce as a base, squash from our fall harvest, green beans we freeze in the summer. Minestrone is a beautiful, colorful way to eat what you grow (my mantra of late), and our Minestrone mostly comes from our garden. Still, I realize it’s very easy to replicate my Minestrone without growing your own veggies, though it’s surely a wonderful goal to have because nothing tastes as good as when it comes straight from your garden. There’s something about watching your squash grow from a seed that makes you treasure it even more, I think.
Minestrone is one of those soups you can literally just throw in what you have handy, and it will be beautiful. I just adore the colors. I always make it my goal to have orange, green, red, and white. Of course, you can adapt to what you have and to what colors you want.
And to make Minestrone extra easy, I have discovered that I can make it in the Crockpot. The slow cook makes it taste even better. I just dump in the early ingredients and only have to work again at the end.
In the cold winter months, soup and bread are a staple of our family’s diet. The soup brings us both nutrition and comfort. I hope you find this quick and easy Minestrone recipe to be one that is simple to make and still warms your heart and your bones during the cold days of winter.
- 1 large jar homemade spaghetti sauce*
- 1 box or 4 cups organic chicken broth
- 1 pound humanely-raised sausage
- 1 can kidney beans
- 1 small package frozen green beans or 1 can Italian cut green beans (during zucchini season, I replace the green beans with zucchini for the green)
- 1 can dark red kidney beans
- 1 large or two small butternut squash
- 8 ounces of your favorite pasta small enough to fit into a soup**
- Parmesan cheese to taste for garnish
First, cook your sausage in a pan until browned and thoroughly cooked. You don’t want to count on your Crockpot to cook the sausage. While your sausage is cooking, peel and dice your butternut squash. You will want to dice the squash into fairly small pieces.
Dump the sausage, squash, chicken broth, and spaghetti sauce into your Crockpot. Let these ingredients cook for about three hours on high.
In three hours, come back to your Crockpot and add your frozen green beans. If you are using canned green beans, you do not have to add them until the end, which is about four hours. During this three-hour window, I will make some homemade French bread, which pairs perfectly with this soup. Of course, you can purchase some French bread as your side.
One hour later (or four hours from the time you turned on your Crockpot) add your kidney beans and cooked pasta. Be sure to cook your pasta per its directions before you put it into the soup mixture.
Let everything simmer together for another half hour or so. Serve it up with some fresh Parmesan cheese on top.
This recipe serves 6 to 8. Since we have 3 in our family now, this meal feeds us for two nights. However, when I warm it up for day 2, I add another jar of spaghetti sauce to make it extra yummy, as well as 2 or 3 more cups of chicken broth.
I hope you find this soup as comforting as I do! Serve with a side of homemade French bread, and this Minestrone makes for a delicious, core-warming meal.
*If you do not have access to homemade spaghetti sauce, store-bought sauce will do. However, choose a rich sauce with lots of depth in flavor. I won’t name names, but there are some standard sauces on the market that are so simple and just have no depth in taste. Choose something complex. The sauce is where this recipe gets its seasoning.
**I used elbows in the pictures here, but I will use any random pasta we have left over around the house.