Two weekends ago I came down with a really horrible cold (and I am just finally starting to feel better, which is why you haven't heard much from me lately). All I wanted was to stay curled up on the couch with a blanket and some hot tea. And I wanted soup. I had actually made chicken soup the week before because Jeff was sick (yup, he passed his cold on to me), so I didn't want the traditional cold-curing soup. I was really craving vegetables (probably my body's way of asking for vitamins), so I turned to an old recipe for a hearty, herby minestrone soup that I had posted years ago.
It's a soup my mom and I created based on a recipe in Art of the Slow Cooker. I don't often repeat recipes, but I remembered how good the soup was and knew it was exactly what I needed to help my cold.
I scaled it down a little, cutting back on ingredients so the prep work would match my energy level (cook lentils, chop and sauté some vegetables, and add liquids), and then I let the soup cook away in the slow cooker. When it was nearly done, I boiled pasta and then added a few final vegetables to the pot.
The mixture of vegetables, lentils, and pasta was exactly what I needed. It wasn't an instant cure-all, but I was happy to have a soup that I could reheat whenever I was craving a bowl.
Hearty Minestrone Soup
(adapted from Art of the Slow Cooker)
This hearty minestrone soup is chock-full of vegetables and features lentils in place of the usual beans.
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 to 5 hours on high or 6 to 10 hours on low
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
1 cup green lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for pasta
1 large onion, chopped
5 carrots, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick
3 celery ribs, sliced ½ inch thick
1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 cups chicken broth
1½ cups V8 or similar juice (I used R.W. Knudsen Very Veggie)
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound small shells or other small pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (12-ounce) package steam-ready green beans
1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Cook the lentils according to package directions.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in stovetop-safe slow-cooker insert or skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and thyme and continue to cook for 1 minute.
Place insert in slow cooker (if using skillet, transfer vegetable mixture to slow cooker insert).
Stir in broth, V8, diced tomatoes with juices, vinegar, salt and pepper, and cooked lentils.
Cover and cook on high for 3 to 5 hours or on low for 6 to 10 hours.
Once soup is ready, keep warm in slow cooker.
Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Toss with olive oil to keep from sticking together. Set aside.
Meanwhile, steam green beans according to package directions, let cool slightly and cut into bite-size pieces.
Stir green beans and spinach into the soup. Let sit, covered, for about 2 minutes to soften spinach.
Spoon pasta into individual bowls and ladle soup over pasta.
Serve, topped with grated Parmesan, if desired.
Store leftover soup and pasta separately.
What kind of soup do crave when you're sick?
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