Minestrone means "big soup" in Italian = a soup of many vegetables.
-1 cup dried cannellini or borlotti beans (I use little white beans)
If using canned beans use 2-3 cups. Reserve the cooking liquid or canned liquid.
Heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat:
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 large onion, finely chopped
-2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
Cook for 15 minutes. Add:
-4 garlic cloves
-5 thyme sprigs (I used some fresh rosemary...1 tsp. dried thyme would work, too)
-1 bay leaf
-2 tsp. salt
Cook for 5 minutes longer. Add, and bring to a boil:
-3 cups water
When boiling, add:
-1 leek, diced
-1/2 lb. green beans, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
Cook for 5 minutes, then add:
-2 medium zucchini, cut into small dice
-2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 medium-sized can diced tomatoes
Cook for 15 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust as necessary.
Add the cooked/canned beans, along with
-1 cup bean cooking liquid, or liquid from canned beans and enough water to make 1 cup
-2 cups spinach leaves, coarsely chopped (about 1 lb.)
Cook for 5 minutes. If the soup is too thick, add more bean cooking liquid or water. Remove the bay leaf.
Serve in bowls. each garnished with 2 tsp. olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.
Fall Minestrone variation:
Add 2 finely chopped celery stalks to the onions and carrots. Instead of thyme, add sage and rosemary with the garlic. Omit the green beans, zucchini, tomatoes and spinach, and use instead 1 bunch kale, stemmed, washed and chopped, 1 small can tomatoes, drained and chopped, and 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes (about 2 cups). Cook the tomatoes and kale with the onions for 5 minutes, add water and cook for 15 minutes. Add the squash and continue cooking until tender, about 10-15 minutes, before adding the cooked beans.