Soups in general, and Italian soups in particular, traditionally were made in the frugal "peasant" style, using odds and ends of what home cooks had at hand so as not to waste anything. This soup also lends itself to that tradition. I used this recipe as a starting point and got creative as I went along, using what I had at hand in the pantry and freezer. I made my own stock, using beef and chicken bones with good bits of meat attached, that I had collected in the freezer. I also browned up some Italian sausage, casings removed, before sauteeing onions, celery, the red bell pepper and garlic - the sausage added great flavor! I used tomatoes I had frozen from my garden, a good glug of red wine and added some chopped zucchini with the pasta. Rather than fresh thyme I threw in a good Tuscan seasoning blend, along with salt and pepper to taste. I used canned cannelini beans (white kidney beans) for the beans called for, adding them at the last with the fresh, chopped spinach. This soup was so delicious, so rich, hearty and satisfying, that I was sorry I was full because I wanted another bowl! The aroma alone is enough to make you salivate and after weeks of travel and eating restaurant food this was just the sort of home cooked comfort food I needed. In true Italian style, don't forget to serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese!
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Soups in general, and Italian soups in particular, traditionally were made in the frugal...