Fennel is like a dark-haired Sicilian woman in a white sun dress walking a country road, the sun setting into the Mediterranean behind her. Adding it to this dish helps create a depth that highlights all the other flavors and textures you find as you spoon your way through it.
Traditional minestrone starts with pancetta, a delicious Italian version of bacon. Unfortunately, it contains even more fat than bacon. For this lightened version, inspired by one by Michael Chiarello, I substituted Canadian bacon and used a light hand on the oil. Overall, minestrone is incredibly healthy, with loads of vegetables. For my Weight Watchers friends, at 10 1.5-cup servings, the soup works out to 3 points a bowl. Add some warm whole wheat baguette.
And don't think this is something the kids won't eat. Quinn, our 15-year-old picky eater, called it "yummylicious!"