I'm in the soup camp here.
Soak beans overnight, or use canned if you prefer. Sweat diced onion and carrot and celery and whatnot in a little olive oil, add some diced ham or leftover chicken or whatever, toss while cranking the heat up, then add stock or water to cover very generously. You can add the drained beans now or cook them separately if you like --- I just toss 'em in, usually. Add an old Parmesan rind or something if you've got it, and more firm vegetables, and herbs like thyme and oregano (fresh for preference). Cook about 1-2 hours at a simmer until the beans are tender. (If you want potatoes in it, dice them and add them when the beans are just barely tender.) Season the soup generously with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, add any really soft vegetables (leafy greens, fresh tomato, frozen par-cooked peas or carrots, etc.), and add also a generous handful or so of some kind of dry pasta you like. Cook at a medium boil about 10 minutes until the pasta is barely tender, then shut off heat. Season to taste. Wait 5 minutes. If you like it creamy, scoop out half a cup or so of beans, then put them through a food mill or just mash through a mesh strainer, and stir the mush back in. You can now leave it to cool and reheat it, or serve at room temperature (more salt needed!), or serve it immediately.
I like grated Parmesan, lots of fresh coarse-ground black pepper, a pinch of crunchy salt, and a drizzle of good olive oil on top.
Note for parents: I serve this at least once a week in the cooler months, because it's ludicrously healthy, cheap, uses up leftovers, and my kids --- ages 5 and 2 1/2 --- will shovel it in. I've seen my son (the 5-year-old) eat two generous adult-sized bowlfuls, then decline dessert because he was full. So he should be!
Note on variations: Search around for serious Italian cooking sites and books. What most Americans know as "minestrone" is a pretty despicable crime against a vast range of wonderful soup-stews along this general line.