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Minestrone, Olive Garden Copycat (P, TNT)
Source: Todd Wilbur
Serves: 10 to 14

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small white onion, minced
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup frozen cut Italian green beans
1/4 cup celery, minced (about 1/2 stalk)
4 tsp. minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 (15 oz.) cans red kidney beans, canned, drained and rinsed
2 (15 oz.) cans small white beans or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup carrots, julienned or shredded
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
3 cups hot water
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup small shell pasta

Heat three tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Sauté onion, celery, garlic, green beans, and zucchini in the oil for 5 minutes or until onions begin to turn translucent.

Add vegetable broth to pot, plus drained tomatoes, beans, carrot, hot water, and spices. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Add spinach leaves and pasta and cook for an additional 20 minutes or until desired consistency.

Poster's Notes:
I first ate this soup at my son's house and really enjoyed it. I made it for dinner last night, but made a few minor changes: I used only 1 tbsp. olive oil. The soup didn't seem tomato-ey enough for minestrone, so I added 100g (3-1/2 oz.) of tomato paste. I also added another cup of water, as the soup was extremely thick. (You might want to add even more.) I cut the amount of salt to 1 tsp. I used regular frozen green beans (about 3/4 cup) since you can't get the Italian ones here. I doubled the amount of zucchini, carrots, and celery. I used reconstituted bouillon powder that I get in the health food store in place of the vegetable broth. We sprinkled some grated Parmesan on it before eating.

With my changes, the nutritional values are as follows per serving, assuming 10 servings:

302 Calories; 4g Fat (11.3% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 13g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 1263mg Sodium
Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1-1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat.

The sodium is somewhat lower than indicated, since the nutritional info is for undrained beans, and, when they are drained and rinsed, much of the sodium is washed away.

I served the soup as a main course, along with homemade whole wheat-rye-onion bread. It was a great winter meal! If you serve it as a first course, it will probably serve about 14 people.

Posted by Annice Grinberg

Nutritional Info Per Serving: 314 Calories; 7g Fat (18.3% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 13g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 1285mg Sodium.
Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1 Fat