1(14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted petite diced tomatoes
1 ½teaspoonsdried oregano
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1(15-ounce) can Great Northern beansrinsed & drained
1(15-ounce) can red kidney beansrinsed & drained
½cupdried small elbow pastaregular OR whole wheat
1cupfresh OR frozen green beans
1cuppacked fresh baby spinach OR frozen spinach
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh minced parsleyfor serving
In a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, heat the extra-virgin olive oil. Saute the onion until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrot, and celery and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently, or until the vegetables are just tender.
Stir in the broth, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir well and place a lid on the pot, leaving it cracked about an inch for steam to escape; cook for 20 minutes. Add the canned beans, pasta, green beans, and spinach to the pot; stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer once more. Stir well and cook uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the pasta is tender. Adjust the seasonings, adding more salt (¼ teaspoon at a time) and pepper if necessary, and stir in the balsamic vinegar, if using. Serve hot topped with fresh Parmesan and parsley.
Feel free to add your favorite seasonal veggies (or whatever vegetables you have on hand) to make this soup your own. A few ideas: 1 or 2 cubed yellow potatoes; a medium-sized yellow squash or zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced (for half circle-shaped pieces); 1 cup sliced or shredded cabbage; or 1 cup fresh or frozen peas.
Depending on the vegetables you add, you have three choices. You can sauté them at the beginning of the recipe along with the carrots and celery (such as squash or zucchini). You may add them to simmer along with the broth and tomatoes (such as potato or cabbage). Or you can add them at the end with the pasta and beans (such as peas).
You can swap out the spinach in this recipe for chopped kale or collard greens.
You can also vary the types of canned tomatoes you use. I prefer using one can of crushed tomatoes (OR a can of tomato puree) plus one can of petite diced tomatoes. But you can use two cans of petite diced (or regular diced) tomatoes instead. Or, if you have kids who pick out chunks of tomatoes, go for two cans of crushed tomatoes.
If you have a Parmesan rind on hand, throw it in to simmer with the tomatoes and broth for even more flavor.
Dried herbs are more potent than fresh. So if you'd like to use fresh herbs, increase the amounts to use three times more fresh herbs.
Any tiny pasta will work in this soup. Small elbows, ditalini (tubular), orecchiette (small ears), and small shells are some of my favorites.
You may use regular pasta or whole wheat. Make sure it cooks as long as necessary to become tender before serving. And ½ cup dried pasta won't seem a lot when you first add it, but keep in mind that it will expand as it cooks. If you prefer to add more pasta to your soup, be aware that you may have to add a bit more broth (or water) to compensate for extra absorption of the pasta.
Same thing goes for leftovers. Pasta can continue to absorb liquid once refrigerated, so you may have to add a splash of extra broth when reheating your soup.
To make this recipe vegetarian, use vegetable broth (or stock) instead of chicken broth. To make it vegan, also leave out the Parmesan cheese.