Here is a side dish that goes with just about anything. It's easy to make, nutritious and a good way to get vegetable-haters to take another look.

If you have family or friends who are trying to eat meatless, it might seem like soup is a great way to go. No meat equals meatless, right? Not necessarily. Most soup recipes use beef or chicken stock to cook the ingredients.

But there are substitutions you can make to have vegetarian-friendly soups. The most obvious is vegetable broth or stock, now available in many brands. But vegetable juices such as tomato juice or even V8 can work, too. To keep the sodium content in check, it's best to use the low-sodium variety and to thin it out with some water.

Here is a recipe for minestrone that's completely vegetarian, but completely delicious, too.

Truly Vegetarian Minestrone
Makes 10 servings

This recipe is from Desperation Dinners, a column that runs occasionally in the Dispatch Food section.

1 tablespoon olive oil 8 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped 1 cup thinly sliced carrots 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 cups low-sodium V8 juice 4 1/2 cups water 1/2 cup ditalini or orzo pasta 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed, drained 1 can (15 oz.) red kidney beans, rinsed, drained 1 can (2 1/4 oz.) sliced black olives, drained 2 cans (14 oz. each) fire-roasted tomatoes with juices 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning 1 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste 1 cup frozen peas 10 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots are crisp-tender and the mushrooms begin to lose their liquid, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the garlic, vegetable juice, water and pasta to the pot and raise the heat to high. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking.

When the soup boils, reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the tomatoes with their juices, chickpeas, kidney beans, olives, Italian seasoning, sugar and black pepper. Stir frequently, adjusting heat if necessary to be sure the soup maintains a vigorous boil. Cook until the pasta is just tender, about 5 minutes. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, stir in the still-frozen peas.

Serve at once, garnishing each serving with a teaspoon of Parmesan.