Northern Italian Minestrone with Sausage

1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced thin
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basic, garlic and oregano (undrained)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups frozen cut green beans (Italian style preferred)
1/2 cup long-gran rice, uncooked
2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper(optional)
1 medium zucchini, sliced thin
6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

 

  1. In a large heavy soup kettle or Dutch oven, over medium heat, cook sausage, breaking sausage into small pieces with the back of a wooded spoon. Cook sausage until no longer pink. Remove from pan and drain sausage, if necessary.   Cook until no longer pink.
  2. Drain all but 1 teaspoon of pan drippings from soup kettle. Add onion, celery and carrot. Saute just until vegetables are soft. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, broth, green beans, rice, water, herbs and black and crushed red peppers. Return sausage to soup kettle. Reduce heat, cover and gently simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in zucchini and simmer another 5 minutes. 
  4. Portion 1-1/4 cups into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese.

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