Crockpot Minestrone Soup

An easy, flavorful minestrone soup that can be made in the crockpot. We love this soup on cold winter nights.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup #winter #recipes #easy #soup | thepajamachef.comGrowing up, I didn’t like soup at all. Minestrone soup was probably my least favorite of them all, with all its tiny vegetables, white beans, and floaty spinach. The pasta was the only good part!! And there never was enough of it. It’s not like my mom served soup all the time or anything. I just remember it being an option. A gross option. Fortunately, my tastes have matured a bit. Now, I LOVE soup. Love love love it. I frequently make a big batch on the weekend and freeze leftovers in individual containers to make the lunch packing chore easier.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup #winter #recipes #easy #soup | thepajamachef.comIn the winter, this is one of my favorite soups to make. I usually have all the ingredients on hand so making this hearty Italian in the crockpot is super simple. There are some ways to fancy it up though, if that’s your thing–you can saute the veggies, use fresh herbs instead of dried herbs, etc. But the classic crockpot cooking style of “toss it in and forget it” TOTALLY works for this recipe. The one deviation I take from that is cooking the pasta separately, to help it not soak up all the broth right away. That’s not too hard, is it? Hope not, because this is one delicious soup!! Enjoy!

two years ago: Cranberry Orange Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup
four years ago: Eggless Cookie Dough

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 6-8 hours
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adapted from Skinnytaste

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups/48 ounces chicken or vegetable broth, reduced sodium if possible
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 3 small diced carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Parmesan cheese rind, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked small pasta like ditalini or small shells
  • 1 – 10 ounce package frozen spinach, defrosted with liquid squeezed out
  • Parmesan cheese for garnishing

Directions:

Add beans, broth, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, basil, and rosemary to a large crockpot. Stir and add Parmesan cheese rind, if using. Set crockpot to cook on low for 6-8 hours.

An hour before you want to eat, bring a small pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add pasta to crock pot along with defrosted spinach. Stir, cover, and let crockpot cook for another 30 minutes or so to heat through.

Before serving, remove bay leaves and Parmesan rind. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan!

 

Notes:

  • If desired, you can saute the onion, carrots, and celery before adding to the crockpot.
  • Fresh herbs can be used in place of dry herbs.
  • A thicker minestrone can be achieved by pureeing half the beans with 2 cups chicken broth.
  • The pasta absorbs the broth as it sits, so when you reheat it, you may have to add additional broth or water.
  • Soup reheats and freezes well!

 

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Art Smith’s Macaroni and Cheese

A decadent, ooey gooey baked macaroni and cheese that is perfect for your Christmas table or for a cozy weeknight at home. It can even be prepped earlier in the week and baked later! A tried and true family favorite!

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese | thepajamachef.com - a family favorite that can be prepared ahead of time. If I had to choose one last meal, this macaroni and cheese would be it. I know there’s lots of other good meals out there, but mac and cheese is HARD to beat. And if it’s your last meal, then the healthier choices don’t matter very much, do they? :) Sorry, didn’t mean to get into a philosophical mood there. It just sorta happened. And I suggest that this macaroni and cheese just “sorta” happens in your world soon. It’s simply the best!

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese | thepajamachef.com - a family favorite that can be prepared ahead of time. My mom’s been making it for years, and it’s really the ultimate mac and cheese. It’s baked, so it has those crispy edges that we all know and love, but unlike some other baked pasta dishes, the middle has lots of ooey gooey cheesy goodness. There’s really no other way to describe it besides ultimate, divine, incredible, and utterly amazing! You can be somewhat flexible with the cheese that you use–using some cheddar and some parmesan is a must, but other than that, anything goes! American, colby, an Italian blend, gouda… If it’s cheese, it should be good!

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese | thepajamachef.com - a family favorite that can be prepared ahead of time. I always serve this pasta with a big green salad or another veggie side. As you can tell it was summertime when I took these pictures at my parents’ house, but we enjoy this pasta year round. It would be a great addition to your Christmas table, too. It’s a great side dish since it’s SO rich. We easily get at least 12 servings. Enjoy!!

one year ago: Cranberry-Pistachio Citrus Butter Cookies
two years ago: Streuseled Cran-Apple Sweet Potato Casserole
four years ago: Sweet Potato Soup

Art Smith's Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 12+
  • Time: 60 minutes
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from Art Smith’s Back to the Table

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta – elbow macaroni or penne recommended
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 4 cups cheese, shredded – definitely use half cheddar + something else of your choice [he suggests American, but just go with what you feel like – Italian blend, colby, gouda, etc.]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • hot pepper sauce [I use Frank’s]
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions, then drain.

Meanwhile, grease a large casserole dish [a 9×13 pan works, as does any 4 quart casserole dish] and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk. The milk doesn’t have to be hot but it shouldn’t be cold either. Room temperature or gently heated in the microwave is perfect!

Bring sauce to a simmer, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in half of the cheese. Season to taste with pepper and hot sauce.

Spread a third of the pasta over the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with half of the reserved cheese and a third of the sauce. Repeat: a third of the pasta, remaining cheese, and a third of the sauce. Repeat: remaining pasta, remaining sauce. Top with parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.

Notes:

  • Tent pasta with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes if top is browning too much.
  • This recipe can be prepared in advanced, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking. Just bring to room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking, or place pan in a cold oven and let oven heat up with the dish. From the refrigerator, you’ll have to bake it at least 40-45 minutes to heat through but use your best judgment.
  • Leftovers freeze well.

Linked up with Weekend Potluck.

Sriracha Fried Rice

A unique, spicy fried rice with the egg on top! If spice isn’t your thing, just use a little Sriracha for flavor!

Sriracha Fried Rice | thepajamachef.comOhhh yeah. This dinner is my new BFF. I’ve made it more times in the last few months than I can count. It’s full of flavor, is super simple, and uses one of my favorite under-appreciated vegetables–cabbage! It’s rare for us not have have some leftover rice in the fridge because Ben lives on that stuff. And lucky for me–rice is cheap, and it lasts in the fridge or freezer for awhile. But that “lasting’ sometimes means there’s more leftover rice than I know what to do with. Enter fried rice. You can make a normal fried rice like this one or a kale fried rice or a pineapple fried rice, or you can make a kicked up vegetarian version. Like this one! Sriracha is everyone’s favorite spicy condiment so now you have another use for it!

Sriracha Fried Rice | thepajamachef.comThis dinner hits the spot when you want something homey and comforting but don’t want to wait or take the time to cook a big meal. Sriracha Fried Rice takes a bunch of leftovers [like that cabbage you bought for slaw or to add to salad] and turns them into something amazing! I love the nuttiness of the sesame oil and sesame seeds that are added at the end. They give it another dimension of flavor…. and the leftovers are even better the next day! Just don’t forget the fried egg on top. Drippy yolk + spicy rice = amazing. I bet this would be great for breakfast too! Enjoy!

two years ago: Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese
three years ago: Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake
four years ago: Pumpkin Ginger Bread

Sriracha Fried Rice

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 30 minutes
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from Jenna’s Everything Blog

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons oil, divided
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cabbage, chopped or shredded [I usually use at least 2-3 cups cabbage, and sometimes even add in mustard greens too]
  • 1 splash Shaoxing wine [or dry sherry or Mirin]
  • 1 pinch sugar [omit if using Mirin since it’s already sweet]
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1-3 tablespoons Sriracha depending on your spice preferences
  • 4 cups cold, cooked rice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 tablespoons oil and heat, then cook garlic for 30 seconds. Add onion, stirring to coat with oil, and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add cabbage, wine/sherry/Mirin, and sugar and cook for another 4-5 minutes until it starts to soften. Add soy sauce and Sriracha, stirring well, then cook for another minute or so. Add rice, breaking up larger pieces with a wooden spoon, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook rice for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lastly, stir in sesame oil and green onions.

In another pan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil to fry your eggs to desired doneness.

Serve eggs on top of fried rice. Enjoy!

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

A creamy, veggie-filled pasta dish that comes together quickly with lots of pantry ingredients.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta | thepajamachef.comDoes anyone else watch Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network? Ever since we moved to Nashville and got a DVR [yes, I know these have been around forever but we didn’t get one til a year ago. We are way behind technology-wise.] I have been obsessed with recording episodes of cooking and HGTV shows. Because I can, and because they’re good tv shows to watch while blogging or reading magazines or something. I never watch and only watch tv. I need to be doing something else in the process, so I need somewhat mindless shows that aren’t totally trashy. Does that make sense? This one, if you haven’t seen it, requires chefs to dash around a grocery store in search of ingredients for an assigned meal/category of food, and then COOK their meal… but there’s always a twist or challenge. I never in a million years would want to be on Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, or any of those other cooking shows… but if I had to choose a cooking competition show to be on, this would be it. It’s relatively tame, Guy seems nice, and hello! Grocery stores are my favorite place to browse. Is that weird? Ha. Anyways, on a recent episode of triple G, one of the judges said that pasta dishes aren’t supposed to be light. She thought they needed to be heavy, or at least, hearty to be a true pasta dish. I have to say I disagree with that. There’s a place for heavy, hearty dishes like baked pasta or lasagna [take a look in my archives, I have tons of recipes like that!] but sometimes lighter pasta dishes totally hit the spot. Maybe they aren’t traditional but I love ‘em.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta | thepajamachef.comThis pasta dish is exactly the kind I love–full of flavor and interesting things, but still relatively light. It uses cream cheese and Parmesan cheese but also a lot of tomatoes, onions, and spinach to balance everything out. You can make this pasta in a pretty short amount of time, using mostly pantry ingredients, so it’s great for weeknights. The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks, so it really doesn’t take more time to make than  a box of mac ‘n cheese. So what if it’s not this big, hearty meal? Isn’t that what sides are for? :) To make this more of a one dish meal, I think some sliced grilled chicken, shrimp, or even some canned white beans would be great additions. I’ll have to try that next time! Enjoy!

one year ago: Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Sauce
two years ago: Pumpkin Cornbread
three years ago: Honey Whole Wheat English Muffins
four years ago: Pumpkin Pasta Sauce, aka “Pumpfredo”

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
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from Budget Bytes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound small pasta like penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4-5 ounces fresh spinach [frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained should also work too]

Directions:

Prepare pasta [al dente] according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened about 7 minutes. Then add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Add tomatoes [undrained], oregano, basil, red pepper, and black pepper and stir to combine. Add tomato paste and 1/2 cup water to skillet, stirring until tomato paste has dissolved. Reduce heat to low and add cream cheese cubes one by one, stirring until incorporated. Then add the Parmesan cheese gradually, stirring until it is creamy.

When pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce. Top with spinach, cover, and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes until spinach wilts. Stir in and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately.

Mystery Dish: Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin

For this month’s edition of Mystery Dish, Marcie of Flavor the  Moments was our host. She gave us a lovely  list to work with, including: pork, fennel, kabocha squash, hard apple cider, heavy cream, orange, farro, hazelnuts, quince, thyme, maple syrup, and brussels sprouts. A lot of fun ingredients, for sure! But some were a little too exotic or expensive for me to get without a trip across town to a fancier grocery store, so simple it was!

Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDishBut simple doesn’t have to mean boring. This honey-thyme roasted pork tenderloin was anything besides boring! It was bursting with lots of fresh flavor–before roasting, the pork is seared in a hot skillet then coated with an amazing mixture of honey, butter, thyme, and orange zest AND juice. Talk about flavor overload! I could totally see making that honey mix into a fun spread on cornbread or a biscuit. It was SO delicious when I test tasted it [before it came into contact with the raw meat] that I was super tempted to put the spoon in my mouth later. But raw meat=gross=unhealthy so I talked myself out of that one. :) It was hard, guys, but I did it.

Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDishAs the pork roasted, a wonderful hearty sweetness filled the house. I tended up having to cook the meat a little while longer than the original recipe advised, despite the internal temperature reading 145 degrees F as it should, hence the photos above being a little too pink for my liking. But I was chasing daylight and thought the pork was done before I cut into it, so I had to take the photos then or else incur the wrath of the dreaded florescent kitchen lighting. Ugh, no thanks. But once the pork was done, it was amazing–juicy and rich, with the perfect blend of herb-citrus-honey baked right into the crispy coating that appears as the honey bakes on the pork. I served my pork with an awesome butternut squash side dish that I’ll have to share before Thanksgiving because it has “holiday side dish” written all over it. Enjoy!

one year ago: Skinny Southwest Chicken Dip
two years ago: Mexican Rollups
three years ago: Individual Pumpkin Pie Parfaits
four years ago: Asian Chicken Bowls

Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 60 minutes
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adapted slightly from Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 pound pork tenderloin
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme [or 1 tablespoon ground thyme] + more for serving
  • zest and juice of one orange
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Let pork sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes before using, then pat dry and season with pepper and salt.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, sear pork for about 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Remove from pan and add chicken broth, scraping up brown bits, then remove from heat and reserve sauce.

Whisk together thyme, orange zest, orange juice, honey, and butter in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When pork has seared, place pork in a baking dish then rub with thyme mixture. Pour chicken broth into baking dish.

Bake for at least 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. Let rest for 10 minutes, covered with foil, before slicing and serving with more fresh thyme.

See what other Mystery Dish gals made this month:

Baked Apple Donuts with Maple Glaze by Yummy Healthy Easy

Baked French Toast Casserole by I Want Crazy

Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Truffles by Culinary Couture

Hazelnut Maple-Glazed Cinnamon Rolls by I Dig Pinterest

Hazelnut Macarons with Pumpkin Maple Filling by Baking a Moment

Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin from The Pajama Chef

Italian Sausage and Ravioli Skillet by Simply Gloria

Kabocha Squash Curry with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Farro by Chez CateyLou

Maple Glazed Fennel and Brussels Sprouts by The Well Floured Kitchen

Pear Hazelnut Bread with Orange Maple Glaze by Blahnik Baker

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Bacon, and Hazelnuts by Flavor the Moments

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Harvest Salad with a Hard Apple Cider Vinaigrette by Joyful Healthy Eats

{Vegan} Orange Hazelnut Maple Cinnamon Rolls by Sweet Tooth Life