Minestrone is a very versatile and simple soup to make, made even easier with a slow cooker

Yield: Serves 4

1 cup onion, finely diced
½ cup fennel, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
½ tsp chili pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Italian seasoning
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes and juices

1 15-oz can cannellini beans (or chickpeas)
2 cups black kale, stemmed and chopped
1 small chunk of Parmesan rind
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Combine the first 12 ingredients in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for six hours. In the last hour, add the beans, kale and Parmesan rind and continue to cook covered. Garnish with grated Parmesan and serve with crusty bread.

If you don’t have cannellini beans, you can easily substitute chickpeas or navy beans. If you don’t have kale, simply use spinach instead. Adding the hard rind from a chunk of Parmesan is a great trick when making minestrone, adding tremendous flavour to the finished soup with little effort.

Make the switch logoJust because it’s spring doesn’t mean you should pack away your slow cooker. Comforting dishes like soups, casseroles and roasts are perfect for chilly spring days. Recipes that need to simmer for hours, like chili, use less energy in slow cookers than on the stovetop.