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Happy New Year dear foodie friends! Here at the Average Foodie we rang in the New Year with a nice hearty, tasty and healthy bowl of minestrone soup, fresh baked bread, and crispy apple slices with brie topped with a drizzle of honey. Sure it was not your normal finger foods you’d find at a small holiday gathering, but by the number of satisfied looks received no one seemed to miss them.

So when you are yearning for a nice comforting bowl of soup that’s also packed with lots of veggie goodness, think of the minestrone. It’s great for any occasion, not just dinner parties or special events.

There’s really no set recipe for minestrone. You’re bound to find variations of this soup (or zuppa in Italian) from region to region in Italy as well as across the world. What they all do have in common is a nice base of onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes and some kind of broth simmered a long time together to make a very rich and savory flavor. Here’s my version of minestrone.

Minestrone
1 cup carrots, peeled and cubed
1 cup celery, cubed
1 cup zucchini, cubed
1 cup of celery root or turnip (optional, but adds nice vegetable variety)
½ cup of onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes (unsalted in own juice)
1 can of cannellini beans or white beans or kidney beans
1 can of chicken or vegetable broth
1 ½ cups of mini penne pasta (or any small pasta of your choice)
3-4 tbsp dried sage or marjoram
Small bunch of fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Salt, pepper

1. Coat the bottom of a large bowl with olive oil and begin to heat garlic in it over low heat. Cook for about 1-2 minutes so that the garlic can infuse into the olive oil.

2. Stir in the chopped onions and cook with the garlic and oil for a few minutes so that the onions become transparent and tender. Be careful not to burn the garlic, so keep the heat on medium-low.

3. Add the carrots and celery root to the pot. Stir well. Drizzle in more olive oil to make sure all the vegetables are coated. Cook for about 5-10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

4. Next, stir in the celery, beans, diced tomato, a handful of parsley and a couple tablespoons of dried sage herb. While you are at it, also add salt and pepper. Stir everything together and cook for a couple minutes.

5. Add the broth and a few cups of water. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 45-60 minutes.

NOTE: The longer you let the ingredients simmer together the tastier the soup and broth. Check occasionally to stir and taste. Add more water, herbs, salt and pepper as you desire. The soup should have a nice tangy, but quite savory taste.

6. In a separate pot, bring about five cups of salted water to boil. Stir in the pasta, then cover and let cook for about 7 minutes or just right below al dente. Drain and set aside until ready to add to the larger soup pot.

7. When you are about 10 minutes to serving, stir in the zucchini and cooked pasta to the soup pot. Bring to a medium boil or simmer. Add more herbs, salt, pepper if desired.

Once the zucchini becomes tender and the pasta has plumped a little bit more, ladle a nice heaping into a bowl and top with some Parmesan cheese. Enjoy with some fresh, crusty French bread!

Makes about 8-10 servings, where each serving is about a cup.

Nutritional Data: Based on individual ingredient data collected from Nutritional Facts website, total calories per serving is about 200-250 calories.

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