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Classic Italian Vegetable Soup
A rich and filling Italian soup for cold days and nights. I have specified cabbage in the recipe, but Donna Simonetti of Old Bridge, New Jersey, recommends substituting Swiss chard in its place...while Jacquelyn Dewey of Tonawanda, New York, suggests spinach in addition to the cabbage--plus a stick of chopped pepperoni. They're both right--these are excellent variations. Deborah Tuban of Mountain View, California, recommends smashing some of the beans for a richer consistency. Serve the soup hot in small portions to 6-8 for a nice start to a larger meal--or to 4 who just want to stuff themselves on soup, bread, and maybe some red wine.
Garnish: Parmesan cheese
Saute the onion and celery in the oil til wilted, toss in garlic and stir for a minute, then put in cut-up tomatoes and cook down for about 10 minutes to concentrate flavors. Stir in beef stock, reserved tomato juice, and beans and bring to a boil. Add half the parsley, lower heat, and cook for about 30 minutes.
Add cabbage, zucchini, and ditalini and cook at a gentle boil until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.
When ready to serve, stir in the rest of the parsley, maybe sprinkle in some more minced garlic. Season to taste and grate in some black pepper. Ladle into bowls and pass the parmesan.