1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
4 cups beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 zucchini, cut into 1-in. pieces
2 red potatoes, chopped
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of baking soda
1/3 cup small shell macaroni (or any small pasta), uncooked
1/3 lb. ground Italian sausage, cooked (optional - if you want a vegetarian dish!)
1 cup fresh baby spinach
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Saute onion and carrots in olive oil for several minutes; add garlic and cook for one minute longer. Add tomato paste and stir, over med-high heat. Add apple juice or cider and cook for a few minutes until slightly reduced.
2. Add beef broth, diced tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, beans, Italian seasoning, and nutmeg. (I also added some basil and Penzey's "Forward" spice blend, which I nurse an addiction to and put on everything - fish, eggs, ice cream...) Add whatever seasonings taste like Fall to you. Sprinkle with a dash of baking soda to cut the acidity - add a little at a time because it will make the soup mad!
3. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for as long as you like - maybe even an hour, if you have that kind of time.
4. Add macaroni, cooked Italian sausage, and spinach. Simmer for about 15 min. Season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan and serve with bread!