Recipe - 5 Weeks Of Soup, Week #3: Slow-Cooker Minestrone Soup

Minestrone is my go-to soup during the week.  In the fall and winter it makes the perfect lunch.  I like to make a big pot of it on the weekend so it's all set for the week.

It's extremely adaptable - add what you have.  If you prefer dried beans, use those.  If you have leftover squash, corn, etc., toss it in.   If you don't have the time to make it in a crockpot, make it on the stove - it will only take about 40 minutes.
Slow-Cooker Minestrone Soup4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 cup diced celery (2-3 stalks)
1 cup diced carrots (approx. 2 carrots)
1 cup diced yellow onion (1 small)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/3 cups shell pasta
1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can white navy beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed  
2 cups slightly packed chopped fresh spinach, optional
Finely shredded Romano cheese or Parmesan, for serving
To a slow-cooker, add the vegetable stock, water, tomatoes, celery, carrots, onion, and all the spices except salt and pepper.  Turn to low and cook 5-6 hours {or on high for 3 hours}. 
Uncover, taste, add salt and pepper as needed.  Add the pasta and beans and cook on low 30 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked.  Stir in the spinach, if using, and allow to cook a few minutes more, until it wilts.
Serve topped with shredded cheese.
**If making on the stovetop, sauté veggies in a Tablespoon of veg. oil over medium heat in a large stockpot.  Add the spices and stir to allow the flavors to meld.  Add the vegetable stock, water, and tomatoes.  Turn to high, bring to a boil, and boil 10 minutes.  Add the beans and pasta.  Cook according to pasta directions.  Stir in spinach, if using, and cook a few minutes more.**

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