This is a healthy soup that is quick to throw together and tastes like it has simmered for hours. Barley replaces the pasta here - but this soup tastes like Pasta Fagioli!
4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, cored and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Basil to taste (dried or fresh)
1 15-ounce can cannellini or other white beans, rinsed
1 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup quick-cooking barley (or 1-1/2 cups cooked barley)
1 5-ounce package baby spinach
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, garlic and basil; cook until vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 6-8 minutes.
Stir in the beans, tomatoes, broth and barley. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until barley is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and pepper.