{Recipe} Creamy Italian Minestrone Soup

So winter finally arrived & this chilly mid-60 degree weather (yes, that's winter & we'll ignore that it's supposed to be 78 on Wednesday) calls for soup.  My absolute favorite soup comes from the Detroit Italian staple, Lelli's. They make hands down the BEST minestrone soup.  It's much thicker & creamier than traditional Minestrone. But it's the only way Minestrone soup should ever be made.  Seriously. Once you try it this way, you'll never go back.
Knowing it might be a long shot, I went on the hunt for a copy cat recipe & was shocked to actually fine one on Genius Kitchen! Let me tell you, it is pretty damn close. At Lelli's they serve this soup as one of the many many courses, but truthfully,  it is a meal unto itself.  You won't want or need to eat anything else after devouring a bowl...except maybe seconds.  This recipe is really easy to assemble, however, you will need either a blender or an immersion blender. I highly recommend purchasing an immersion blender if you don't already have one. (We have this one)  Despite the creamy-ness, this dish is actually quite healthy! It is also meat-free, so vegetarians rejoice!  I will absolutely be making this recipe again & again & again!

Serves: 6-8 (the original recipe says 8-10 but I call bullshit. It's too good to eat such small portions)
Cook time: 2 Hours 20 mins
How difficult was this? Not hard AT ALL.

3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp butter
2 16 ounce cans mixed veggies, drained
32 ounces chicken broth (1 carton)
2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans (can substitute great northern beans...I have no idea what these are)
1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes (I couldn't find this size, so I used a 28 ounce can & used half)
1 8 ounce bag frozen spinach (I couldn't find this size either so I used a 12 oz bag & used it all)
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
3 tsp garlic
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 cup uncooked macaroni noodles (I used ditalini noodles)
1 cup half & half
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter & saute onions for 3-4 mins until onions are tender 
In a large stock pot, add onions & everything above the line. 
Bring to a low boil & then immediately reduce the heat. I kept it somewhere between low & medium. Let soup simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. 
Ok here comes the fun part. Using a stick blender on medium, blend the soup. You can also pour at least 1/2 of the soup into a traditional blender & blend.
I wasn't really sure when to stop, so I just moved our stick blender around for about 5-7 mins until the soup thickened up.
Add in uncooked macaroni noodles, half & half, Parmesan cheese & mix well.
Cook for an additional 20-25 mins
Top with additional Parmesan & serve!

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