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Minestrone Soup

Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you: this soup is simple to put together and a great dish to make ahead of time. (It's ideal, too, in late pregnancy and early motherhood, when cooking is the last thing on your mind.) View this as a master recipe, and use virtually any combination of vegetables you like (depending on the season and whatever you happen to find in your refrigerator). Make it even heartier by adding chunks of ham or turkey.

Prep Time: about 20 minutes
Cook time: about 1 hour
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 leeks (white part only) or 1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 carrots, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed, or 4 new potatoes unpeeled and cubed
2 medium zucchini, cubed
½ head of broccoli, cut into florets
3 scallions
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 pints chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned, or water
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup dry white wine (optional)
1 cup corn kernels, fresh shucked or canned (optional)
1 19-ounce can cooked white beans, drained (optional)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the leeks and sauté about 4 minutes, until tender but not brown, Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and potatoes and sauté another 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, broccoli, scallions, and half the parsley and stir well. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, bay leaf, broth, water, and wine, if using, and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to moderately low, cover partially, and let simmer 30 to 45 minutes, or until the potatoes and vegetables are tender.
2. Remove the bay leaf from the soup, and taste for seasoning. If the soup tastes weak, simmer vigorously for another 5 to 10 minutes to reduce slightly. Add the corn and beans, if using, and simmer another 2 minutes.
3. Sprinkle the soup with the remaining parsley just before serving. Serve the grated cheese on the side.

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