Garden Minestrone

Garden Minestrone

Any little drop in the temps is the perfect excuse for soup.

Since it's not exactly cold, we like the idea of a veggie filled, garden-fresh soup.

The recipe produces a bright, lively tasting minestrone that marries a flavorful tomato broth with fresh vegetables, beans and pasta.

Chicken or vegetable broth is the base of the soup, which comes together in the slow cooker.

Sliced zucchini and chopped chard are added during the last 20 minutes of cooking, and the precooked pasta was stirred in at the end. Serve with crusty bread to dip into the broth.

Garden Minestrone

Makes 6-8 servings.

1 onion, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

1½ teaspoons minced fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 cup dried great Northern or cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed

2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

½ cup small pasta, such as ditalini, tubettini, or elbow macaroni

Salt and pepper

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced ¼ inch thick

8 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and sliced ½ inch thick

½ cup chopped fresh basil

Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Microwave onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon oil, oregano, and pepper flakes in bowl, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Stir in broth, tomato sauce, beans, and carrots. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 8 to 10 hours on high.

2. Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water to boil in large saucepan. Add pasta and 1½ teaspoons salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain pasta, rinse with cold water, then toss with remaining 1 teaspoon oil in bowl; set aside.

3. Stir zucchini and chard into soup, cover, and cook on high until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in pasta and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing Parmesan and extra oil separately.