Slow cooker veggie-full minestrone is a ridiculously easy meal

Feb 13, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. ET

A bowl of minestrone is a must in all Italian homes, and I cook it as often as I can. It is one of the easiest, healthiest and cheapest dishes you can make.

My favorite time to make a good bowl of minestrone is after coming from the fresh produce market, where I buy loads of fresh vegetables and beans. In the markets, it is very common to buy prechopped vegetables and beans for making soup.

This barley and vegetable minestrone guarantees you a highly nutritious soup because the ingredients are all healthy. You can get a variety of nutrients from the different vegetables in it, plus carbohydrates from the grains or pasta, calcium from the Parmigiano Reggiano (or Parmesan) and monounsaturated fat from the extra-virgin olive oil.

Slow cooker barley and vegetable minestrone

Slow cooker barley and vegetable minestrone soup recipe

The good thing about minestrone is that you can put any vegetable you want in it and as much variety as you want. In addition to the vegetables, pasta, rice or other grains can go in too. As long as the minestrone is cooked for a long time on low heat, you will have a good, warm, Italian soup. This is where the slow cooker comes in.

Serves 6

Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 8 hours | Total time: 8 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • 5 cups varied vegetables, coarsely chopped in similar sizes (carrots, celery, zucchini, broccoli, French beans, potatoes, cauliflower, fresh beans, etc.)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • Pepper
  • Fresh herbs (basil, parsley, mint, thyme, etc.)
  • Salt (if needed)
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. In the slow cooker, combine the pearl barley, vegetables, vegetable broth and pepper, and then set it on low for 8 hours.
  2. A few minutes before serving, add the fresh herbs and salt, if needed.
  3. Ladle the soup into individual soup bowls, and drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, if using.

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