- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 slices bacon or pancetta
- 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, split in half and rinsed well under running water, thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped, about 1 1/2 cups
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 1 to 2 Parmesan cheese rinds, about 5 by 2 inches each
- 2 carrots, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 ribs celery, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup Great Northern beans, soaked overnight, (or one 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1 medium zucchini, cubed (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 2 medium new potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (6 ounces or 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
- 2 cups packed fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and fry until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the leek and onion and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Add chicken stock, 4 cups water, tomatoes, cheese rinds, carrots, celery, beans, basil, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add zucchini, potatoes, salt, and pepper. Return to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, or until beans and potatoes are tender.
Add spinach and cook for 15 minutes. Remove cheese rinds with a slotted spoon and discard. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary; serve hot.
Cook's Notes: - If your soup gets too thick before serving, you may need to add a bit more water or chicken stock. - For a heartier Minestrone, try adding 1 cup cubed French or Italian bread or 1 1/2 cups cooked elbow macaroni to soup just before serving.
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