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Elaine's minestrone

I asked my spouse, "Who is Elaine?" The answer: a friend of a friend back in the salad days. She made very good soup. "I think it was her grandmother's recipe." It is now one of my favorite winter soups -- hearty, filling and warm -- although we have been known to eat it year-round. Here is my version.

30 oz. (more or less) canned kidney beans, with liquid
2 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
several generous grinds of black pepper (approx. 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. tomato sauce (or canned tomatoes) (more is okay, too)
2 1/2 cups stock or water
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 small zucchini, cubed
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 scallions or 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
a generous handfull green beans, cut in 1 inch pieces (optional)
8 oz. canned corn, drained (optional)
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed (optional)
1 cup wine or dry sherry
3/4 cup small pasta (macaroni size)

Place undrained kidney beans in a pot. Mash 2/3 of them, leave the rest whole.
Add everything except last two ingredients.
Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Add wine or sherry and pasta. Simmer for additional 30 minutes.
Serve with parmesan cheese as garnish and good bread for dipping.

Notes: Other vegetables can be substituted for the optional items (or even for the essential ones). When they look really good, I use wax beans instead of green beans. I am told that 4-5 broccoli or chard leaves make an excellent addition.
The soup can cook for as long as 3-4 hours for an even thicker soup. It is excellent reheated and can be frozen -- you can add water or stock it it becomes thicker than you like.

Serves 6 hungry people.

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