Hearty, Herby Minestrone

About a week before heading to the Cape this past weekend, my mom called and asked me to think of a slow cooker recipe we could make while we were there. I flipped through various cookbooks, trying to find something my mom, my little brother, and Jeff would all enjoy, but that was far too difficult, so instead I found something my mom and I would enjoy and decided the boys could just have something else.

I typed up the ingredient list and sent it to my mom, so she could pick up some of the ingredients ahead of time. Then we ran to the store on Sunday morning and got everything else. We made several substitutions and additions to the recipe to suit our tastes and ended up with a completely different soup than the original.

The original recipe called for chickpeas, which I dislike and which my mom didn't really want in the soup either. I was willing to use cannellini beans instead, but when my mom suggested lentils, we were both immediately sold on that idea. We didn't use nearly as many types of herbs as the recipe called for, and we went through the grocery store grabbing every vegetable we thought would be delicious in the soup.

The best thing about this soup: You make it in the slow cooker, so you can start it in the morning and then just before dinner, add the remaining vegetables and cook the pasta, and then sit down to a fairly effortless, incredibly hearty meal.

Some measurements are estimates because we really just threw some stuff in. Feel free to alter this soup to fit your tastes too.

Hearty, Herby Minestrone (adapted from Art of the Slow Cooker)


For Slow Cooker
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
4 cups chicken broth (feel free to use vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian meal)
1 1/2 cups lentils, cooked
1/2 cup water
11 ounces V8 (two small cans)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For After Slow Cooking
1 pound box of ditalini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 summer squash, halved and sliced
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 small package green beans (we used the ones that are ready to steam)
1 package baby spinach

For Topping
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)


Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and peppers, and saute for about 3 minutes.

Add garlic, thyme, oregano, and basil, and continue cooking for 1 minute.

Transfer to slow cooker.

Add broth, lentils, water, V8, diced tomatoes with juices, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Stir everything together, and then cover and cook on high for 3 to 5 hours or on low for 6 to 10 hours.

Once soup is ready, switch the slow cooker to the keep warm setting if it doesn't automatically switch.

Cook ditalini according to directions on package. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Toss with butter or olive oil to keep from sticking together. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet, and saute squash, zucchini, and green beans until softened.

Once green beans are tender, add the spinach. Cover and cook until spinach is wilted.

Stir the vegetables into the soup.

Fill each bowl with a spoonful of ditalini, and ladle soup into the bowls. Serve topped with grated parmesan, if desired.

My mom and I both loved the way the soup came out. It was so full of flavor! And just think about all those tasty, nutritious veggies in there. She took some home to share with my dad, and I took the rest home to eat for lunch this week. The flavors will continue to marry as the soup sits, so it will keep getting better all week long too.

What's in your favorite soup?