Crock-Pot Minestrone

This “big soup” relies upon leftovers. Thus, it never turns out the same way twice.

Photo by Laura Petrilla

The kitchen gurus tell us that we can improve the quality and vibrancy of the food coming out of our kitchens by periodically clearing the decks. Thank heavens for November, aka National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Month. The timing couldn’t be better—you’re going to need all the space you can get for those holiday ingredients. So take a day to remove the odds and ends in your fridge. 

If you’re feeling particularly guilty about wasting leftovers, why not get out your Crock-Pot and make a batch of minestrone? 

In our family, the minestrone always started with beans and could have any combination of vegetables—like carrots, celery, onions and broccoli.  The complexity of your creation is only limited by the variety of your leftovers.  Here’s a recipe for the basic version, but feel free to substitute and add as you like.

Crock-Pot Minestrone

1 pound beans (cannellini, roman, pinto, kidney, etc.)

8 cups liquid (water, wine, broth, tomato sauce, etc.)

4 cups vegetables (carrots, celery, onions, green beans, peas, etc.)

2 cups other leftovers as available (cooked chicken, beef, sausage, etc.)

2 cups pasta, par-boiled

Bay leaf

1 tablespoon dry basil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1 cheese rind (Romano or Parmigiano)

Rinse the beans and place them in the Crock-Pot with eight cups of liquid.  Add the spices and cook on low for six hours.  Add all the remaining ingredients except the pasta, and cook on low for another two hours.  Add the pasta and cook for one more hour.

Chris Fennimore is the director of programming at WQED and the producer/host for QED Cooks.  Follow his blog on food and family at