My husband is Italian, and so I figured I would try to put a little Italian food on our menu. This is my version of Minestrone, Obviously, I am Irish, Thus Irish Minestrone. My husband loves it, I hope you will as well.
1Put eight cups water, either one 16 oz or two 8 oz cans of tomato sauce, and one 14 oz can italian stewed tomatoes in your crock pot and stir. Turn on low setting for 6 hrs.
2Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic and zucchini, to the crock pot. I buy the pre-shredded carrots. The celery, onion & garlic, I chop. On the garlic, the amount is a base amount of one clove, If you know you like garlic, then add two. The zucchini, I slice into half inch thick circles and then cut those in half.
3Fry your ground beef, and drain off. I put a one pound package, again that is an approximate, if you like it thick & hearty add more, more soupy add less. The reason I fry the ground beef is to eliminate as much grease as possible,
4Add the ground beef to the crock pot, At this stage I add a little black pepper, again that is to taste, I don't measure, however a good base is a couple pinches, you can always add more.
5This is my favorite step, Do whatever you want for the next three hours.
6Now, add your mushrooms. I buy the pre-sliced in the little box. I wait to add the mushrooms, as they have a better texture and flavor if not overcooked.
7This is thee most important step, The beef bouillon. 'Oh my, I just spent the last ten minutes trying to spell bouillon!" I use the granules, reason being it is to taste, I never measure, I just start adding the bouillon, I would start with six tablespoons, that is an approximate, If your hesitant, start with four. Stir everything together, mixing from the bottom so you are getting all the flavors.If you feel it needs more of the bouillon, then add until it tastes right to you. At this point, I add a little more ground pepper, a couple pinches, and walk away.
8At four hours, your soup is probably cooked. However, the flavors are better if you wait the six.
9Oh, I know..The Penne Pasta. Actually, I didn't forget, this part is a little tricky. I say a 16 oz package, I use probably three quarters of the package, that's because I like noodles, sometimes my soups aren't too soupy. So, again I leave this to you.
At this point your soup is very hot, slowly add the uncooked penne to the crock pot. if you can turn it to warm, if not turn it off. The penne will cook. I use penne because it is more of a firm noodle and holds up better. The size also seems to work well in a soup. As a footnote: Some prefer to pre-cook the pasta, the reason I cook it in the crock pot is it better absorbs the flavors and the better it's flavors are added to the soup. Of course, If you did pre-cook the penne, you could cool down the crock pot and then add the pre-cooked penne, probably resulting in a more al-dente pasta, But not as much flavor, and not as much fun.
10This is the crowning touch, Dish your soup, take a handful of shredded cheddar cheese and sprinkle it on top. Great for presentation......Enjoy