You can use any small pasta, such as orzo, ditalini, or small elbows. We recommend great northern or cannellini beans. Serve the minestrone with grated parmesan cheese.
cup dried medium-sized white beans (see note), rinsed and picked over
tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
onions, chopped fine
carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
garlic cloves, minced
(28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, roughly crushed by hand
cups low-sodium chicken broth
cups loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
teaspoon dried oregano
teaspoon red pepper flakes
medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and sliced ¼ inch thick
bunch Swiss chard, stemmed, leaves chopped
cup pasta, small soup
1. COOK BEANS: Bring beans and enough water to cover by 1 inch to low boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beans are just beginning to soften, about 20 minutes. Drain beans and transfer to slow cooker. 2. SAUTÉ AROMATICS: Heat 3 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and their juice and cook until pan is nearly dry, 8 to 12 minutes. Stir in broth, water, 1/2 cup basil, oregano, and pepper flakes and bring to boil; transfer to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until beans are tender, 6 to 7 hours (or cook on high 5 to 6 hours). 3. FINISH SOUP: Stir zucchini, chard, and pasta into slow cooker and cook, covered, on high until pasta is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in remaining basil and remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. TO MAKE AHEAD: Soup can be made through step 2 and refrigerated in airtight container for 2 days. To finish, bring to boil in Dutch oven. Stir in zucchini, chard, and pasta; reduce heat to low; and simmer until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. TIMING IS ALL One batch of vegetables slow-cooks with the broth to create a rich backbone of flavor. We add the quick-cooking zucchini and Swiss chard at the end of cooking (with the pasta) so they don't turn to mush.