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Hot And Hearty Minestrone

Hot And Hearty Minestrone

This simplified version of an Italian classic is kid-friendly and sure to please. Don't forget the cheese rind -- it adds hearty, authentic flavor.

  • Yield: Generous 2 quarts, serving 6 to 8


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 slices bacon or pancetta
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, split in half and rinsed very well under running water, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup dried Great Northern beans, picked over and soaked overnight or 1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind, about 5 x 2 inches
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups cubed zucchini
  • 2 medium new potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (about 6 ounces or 1 1/4 cups cubed)
  • 1 teaspoon Baby Bam
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped


  • In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry until soft, using a fork or tongs to turn, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the leek and onion, and saute until soft, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth, water, tomatoes, carrots, celery, soaked beans, cheese rind, basil, and crushed red pepper. (If you are using canned beans, add them in step 5 along with the spinach.) Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Add the zucchini, potatoes, Baby Bam, and salt. Return to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. If your soup gets too thick before serving, you may need to add a bit more water or chicken broth.
  • Add the spinach (and canned beans, if using) and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the cheese rind with a slotted spoon, and serve.