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From Rebecca Katz' forthcoming book (stay tuned)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Storage: Store refrigerated in an airtight container for 5 days. Freeze for up to 2 months.

The Italians are beautiful because they've turned essentially peasant stock into internationally-renowned cuisine. Take Pappa al pomodoro. Fancy, huh? Can you say 'Day-old knot of stale bread in tomatoes and water?' A staple there, a delicacy here. Same goes for minestrone, which I've always claimed is Italian for 'Whatever the heck we have in the pantry goes in the pot!' Actually, minestrone comes from the array of dishes known a 'cucina povera' or 'poor kitchen'. It's a misnomer, for minestrone is rich in vital nutrients. Most notable is lycopene, a phytochemical in tomatoes that has demonstrated anti-cancer properties, especially with prostate cancer. For me, this is all an add-on, because I cuddle up to a bowl of minestrone once the temperature drops below 65. Believe me, that's a lot of minestrone. Or, as it literally translates in Italian, 'hodgepodge'.

1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained, soaked in the juice of 1 lemon and a pinch of salt for 20 minutes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced small
½ teaspoon sea salt (divided)
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced small
1 cup celery, peeled and diced small
1 cup zucchini, diced small
1 pinch red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon garlic, finely copped
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
8 cups Magic Mineral Broth (or other vegetable broth)
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups finely chopped Swiss chard, washed and stemmed
1 cup whole grain pasta, cooked
¼ cup parsley, chopped finely
A sprinkle of organic Parmesan cheese (optional) for serving

In a 6 to 8 quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, zucchini, red pepper flakes, garlic, oregano, thyme, fennel and ¼ teaspoon salt and sauté about 4 minutes more. Deglaze the pot with ½ cup stock until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the remaining stock, tomatoes, and beans and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chard and the remaining salt and cook 3 minutes more. Stir in the pasta and the parsley.

Serve in soup bowls with a sprinkle of cheese, if desired.

Makes 6 servings. Yield: 10 cups