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Recipe Challenge: VLCD Minestrone

Viveca Taylor, RD
/ February 21, 2020

Minestrone, while traditionally fairly low in calories, does often contain starchy pasta or potatoes. For this week’s Recipe Challenge, we’ve adapt the classic to be VLCD-friendly by subbing in a high-fiber starch. We used Banza Chickpea Shells, but this could also be easily adapted to a quick-cooking grain, like farro or barley for more texture, as the pasta gets fairly soft when cooked.

Adapted from Minimalist Baker Blog

Serves 6


  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/2 medium white or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp each salt & black pepper (plus more to taste)
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp dried basil (or sub 1 Tbsp fresh per 2 tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano (or sub 1 Tbsp fresh per 2 tsp dried)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 pinch red chili pepper flake (optional)
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans or chickpeas, rinsed + drained
  • 1 1/2 cups dry chickpea pasta (or sub 3/4 cup dry quick-cooking (8-10 minutes) high-fiber grain, such as farro or barley)
  • 1 cup kale or spinach, roughly chopped


  1. Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add water, onion, and garlic and stir. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add carrots and green beans and season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened slightly and have some color. You may need to add more water to keep from burning.
  3. Add zucchini, fire-roasted tomatoes, vegetable broth, basil, oregano, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes (optional, but great for a kick!), and beans. Stir to coat.
  4. Increase heat to medium-high and bring soup to a strong simmer. Then reduce heat slightly to medium-low until the soup is simmering but not boiling. Add pasta and stir. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, reducing heat if needed to keep the soup at a simmer.
  5. Reduce heat to low, taste soup and adjust seasonings as needed.
  6. Add kale or spinach (or other green) and stir to wilt. Turn off heat and let rest for a few minutes before serving.
  7. To serve, divide soup between serving bowls and garnish with fresh herbs and sprinkle of parmesan.
  8. Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 3-4 days or the freezer up to 1 month. Be careful not to overheat the soup when warming leftovers, as the pasta is tender once cooked and will get mushy if overcooked.

Per serving: 190 calories, 3g fat (0g saturated fat), 10g protein, 10g fiber, 374mg sodium

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