This minestrone soup recipe is one of the easiest, tastiest recipes you can make. The ingredients are basic but the flavors are bold, warm and comforting.
The evolution and origins of food fascinate me. The idea that a soup such as Minestrone (in its first versions and renditions) pre-dates the expansion of the Latin tribes of Rome is such an amazing piece of history. While the soup has evolved over the centuries, the fact that this type of soup was eaten so long ago really tends to tie us to our past as well as our future with every bite.
Parts of this soup we consider staples today were actually American additions as late as the mid-16th century. Namely, the potatoes and tomatoes that a good many versions of this soup contain these days. For us today, it just wouldn’t be Minestrone without the tomato-flavored broth. But this soup has much more humble beginnings that started with simple ingredients that were available at the time of origin. Minestrone originally consisted of “vegetables, such as onions, lentils, cabbage, garlic, broad beans, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, and turnips.“
Minestrone went from being a simple soup, to being peasant food, to being an Italian standard on the span of a few centuries. Things like this make you realize that our food has a life, a journey and a story all its own.
So what does it take to make a good bowl of Minestrone today? While a standard recipe has never once been a part of Minestrone’s history, it has come, with time, to develop a particular list of ingredients to choose from in varying combinations. Let’s look at some of the components.
WHAT BEANS TO USE IN MINESTRONE
You can use nearly any bean for minestrone. But two types stick out as the best and most commonly used. Kidney beans and chickpeas. That said, here is a list of more you can try. I’ve used most of these over the years and they all add their own personalities to this soup, all of them tasty.
- Kidney beans
- White beans
- Red beans
- Cannellini beans
- Navy beans
MINESTRONE SOUP VEGETABLES
The sky is pretty much the limit with what types of veggies go well with minestrone, but here are the ones that are most common and beloved:
- Green beans
- Spinach and other greens such as kale
TYPES OF MEAT FOR MINESTRONE
Minestrone can be made with or without meat. But if you choose to add it, a couple tend to stand out as mainstays in this classic soup.
- Sausage – typically Italian – Look for good quality meat here.
- Ground beef – can be browned in the veggies after sautéing the vegetables first, and before adding the broth. You may need a touch more oil for that though.
- Ground turkey – Same process as with ground beef – This is what I use. My favorite way to prepare the meat is to cook it separately in a skillet by sautéing 1 lb. of meat in 1 tbsp. of oil with 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning and 1 tbsp. garlic powder with a little salt to taste.
TYPES OF BROTH FOR MINESTRONE
Here again, about the only broth you wouldn’t use here is fish broth. Beef, chicken, turkey and vegetable broth will all make a substantially flavorful pot of soup.
IS MINESTRONE SOUP VEGAN?
This particular recipe is not, but yes, minestrone can easily be vegan. It’s not automatically made vegan though, so it’s always better to double check if somebody else made it. Minestrone is one of those soups that you can make with or without meat products and it still tastes wonderful either way. You can find my Vegan Minestrone here.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH MINESTRONE SOUP
My absolute favorite side dish for Minestrone is a good, crusty, garlic bread. Nothing quite beats it. But now that I’m living in the south where it seems impossible to find a good sourdough bread AND living gluten free, I tend to serve this Minestrone with a green salad. Ideas for complimentary side dishes are:
PASTA OR RICE?
Either will work! It all comes down to your personal preference. The only suggestion I would truly make here is to cook them separately and add them in layers to your bowl. I never combine my rice or pasta with the soup because it makes a big pot and I don’t want my rice or pasta to bloat or get mushy sitting in the broth in the fridge.
One last note is to mention that if you are accustomed to eating either canned or restaurant minestrone, this recipe, as it is, may seem a little low on salt. You can certainly add some to taste, but I recommend first allowing yourself to enjoy the flavors without the excess sodium. You’ll start to notice flavors you never picked up on before. It’s truly a delicious, multi-flavored experience. Give it a try!
What You’ll Need
2 cups chopped purple onions – You can also use yellow onions if that’s what you have on hand.
2 cups chopped celery – Slice these on the thinner side.
2 cups peeled and chopped carrots – You can use regular carrots or baby carrots. Whatever you have handy.
2 tbsp. oil – This can be any oil you usually cook with. I have used coconut oil, olive oil and grapeseed oil in the past.
8 cups chicken stock – Make sure you use chicken broth with no sugar (usually dextrose) added. If you are making this vegan, simply switch of vegetable broth without added sugar. In either case, opt for low sodium broth if you can.
28 oz. can diced tomatoes – Here again, choose tomatoes without added sugar. Use plain diced tomatoes, not fire roasted.
6 oz. can tomato paste – Once again, look for tomato past without added sugar.
3 tbsp. Italian seasoning – This is an herbal mix found in the spice aisle in most grocery stores. You can make your own as well. If buying, make sure there is no added sugar. Many spices have added sugar, so it’s always best to check.
3 tbsp. garlic granules – Garlic powder works here as well.
2 medium bay leaves – Make sure you remove these before serving. Don’t eat them.
1 tsp. salt – I used pink Himalayan salt. But use whatever you have and normally use.
2 cups cooked kidney beans – If yo used canned, make sure there is no added sugar. Kidney beans often have added sugar. If cooked at home, cook them thoroughly. Undercook kidney beans can be toxic.
2 cups cooked chickpeas – Here again, make sure there is no sugar added if using canned beans.
Pasta or rice – Whole grain rice or pasta, as much as you like.
How To Make Minestrone Soup
In a large stock pot, sauté the onions, celery and carrots in the oil until the onions are translucent.
Add all other ingredients, except the rice or pasta, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft and cooked through.
Serve over pasta or rice.
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- 2 cups chopped red onions
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups peeled and chopped carrots
- 2 tbsp. oil
- 8 cups chicken stock (no sugar or dextrose added)
- 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 6 oz. can tomato paste (no sugar added)
- 3 tbsp. Italian seasoning
- 3 tbsp. garlic granules (or powder)
- 2 medium bay leaves
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 cups cooked kidney beans
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- pasta or rice as you like
- In a large stock pot, sauté the onions, celery and carrots in the oil until the onions are translucent.
- Add all other ingredients, except the rice or pasta, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft and cooked through.
- Serve over pasta or rice.
Recipe from the Gracious Pantry® archives, originally posted 1/12/20.