Minestrone Soup

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Packed with vegetables, pasta and beans in a tomato-y broth, vegetarian Minestrone Soup is one of the first recipes I learned in cooking school decades ago. It is hearty, filling and wholesome, and I can almost guarantee that you’re going to love it!

overhead shot of vegetable minestrone soup in a yellow bowl garnished with parmesan cheese and fresh basil

What is Minestrone Soup

Minestrone (pronounced min-eh-STROH-nee) is a rustic Italian soup made with vegetables and beans in a tomato based broth. Depending on the recipe, it will also contain pasta, rice, or in some instances, both.

While the word itself means “big soup” and simply refers to a thick, stew-like soup that has many vegetables, in modern Italian minestrone has become synonymous with this particular soup.

The first instances of minestrone soup date as far back as the 2nd century B.C.E., when Rome conquered Italy. The Roman Empire had access to a wide range of vegetables from all over, and the abundance of vegetables in the Italian diet became commonplace.

Vegetable based diets became the norm for people in the lower classes, as meat products were far more expensive. Luckily, the influx of new varieties of veggies made the vegetarian lifestyle more interesting!

Anyway, minestrone became a way for peasants to use up leftover vegetables and scraps from other meals to make the most of any purchases. To date, this soup is associated with the style of cooking known as cucina povera, meaning “poor kitchen.”

Funnily enough, tomatoes were not part of Italian Cuisine until about the mid-16th century when explorers brought them back from the Americas. Nowadays, tomatoes are nearly synonymous with Italian cuisine and are a necessary component of minestrone soup.

vegetarian minestrone soup in a yellow ceramic bowl with a matching spoon

Why This Recipe Works

While Minestrone is known the world over, there isn’t necessarily a set recipe out there. It is more of a template, if you will, and you can add whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand.

In fact, I’ve found that it’s a great way to use up any veggies that are aimlessly languishing in your crisper drawer! This delicious meal can therefore be made in myriad ways throughout the year.

While the vegetables, beans, and other carbs can vary, onions, celery, carrots and tomatoes are an absolute must. While some might argue the point, I’d also say that a hunk of fresh bread with a little butter is also essential to any minestrone experience, but that’s just me.

Aside from that, feel free to use any seasonal (or even frozen) vegetables that you have on hand. Green beans, artichoke hearts, green peas, asparagus, summer squash and greens like kale or spinach are all excellent additions.

You also have a lot of flexibility in the bean department. Feel free to use kidney beans, navy beans, white kidney beans (canellini) or great northern beans. Optionally you can even use pinto beans, lima beans or butter beans. Even lentils would do the trick!

I personally find dried red kidney beans the easiest to find, so they are my go-to. I soak the beans overnight and cook them in my Instant pot. If you have access, canned beans also work perfectly and cut out a step in the process.

If you don’t like beans, feel free to swap in cubes of starchy vegetables. I find that potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams make a fine substitute for pulses.

Since I prefer my pasta and my vegetables al dente, I cook the pasta separately and add it to the broth afterwards. While this adds another pan to the process, I find that the texture of the vegetarian minestrone soup recipe benefits from this step.

That said, if you are confident in your ability to time the cooking of your veggies to the pasta cooking time, feel free to add the pasta directly to the soup pot.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to Make Minestrone Soup

While this recipe does have quite a few steps, I promise that none of them are difficult to execute. Simply follow along with me, and before you know it, you’ll have a delicious bowl of rustic Italian soup to enjoy!

Step 1 – Prepare Beans

TIP: If you are using canned beans, you can jump ahead to step 2.

1. Sort through your dried beans, removing any damaged beans or small pebbles that might’ve made their way into the bag.

Rinse and soak ½ cup dried kidney beans in 2 cups water overnight. Drain all the water and rinse the soaked beans with fresh water.

Cook soaked beans in water and salt till they are softened and tender using your favorite method. I have listed 3 options for cooking beans:

  1. Instant Pot: Add soaked kidney beans, 2 to 2.5 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt. Seal the IP lid and move the valve to the sealing position. Pressure cook for 15 to 20 minutes on high pressure. Wait for 10 to 12 minutes after you hear the beep sound when the pressure cooking is complete. Lift the valve to release any extra pressure.
  2. In a pan on the stove-top: Add the beans, 2.5 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt in a deep pan or pot. Cover and simmer on medium-heat until beans are tender. If the water froths too much, then remove the lid or cover pan partly with lid and simmer.
  3. Stove-top pressure cooker: Add the soaked beans, 2 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt in a 2 litre pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 12 to 15 minutes on medium heat. When the pressure falls on its own in the cooker, open the lid.
dried kidney beans soaking in water

2. Once the beans are softened and tender, drain them and set aside for later. If including canned kidney beans, add 1.5 cups of the canned beans that have been drained of all the canned liquid, rinsed in fresh water and later drained of the water.

cooked red kidnes beans draining in sieve

Step 2 – Cook Pasta

3. In a pan or pot, take 3 cups water and let it come to a boil. Then add ½ teaspoon salt.

water boiling in stock pot

4. Add 1 cup elbow macaroni (or any small pasta variety).

pasta added to boiling water

5. Cook pasta on medium-high heat until al dente.

TIP: I recommend you read the package directions for your pasta. Cook times will vary widely depending on the shape and size of the pasta.

cooked, drained elbow macaroni in bowl

6. Strain the pasta using a colander or sieve. Cover and set aside.

elbow macaroni draining in sieve

Step 3 – Sauté Aromatics and Veggies

7. Heat 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in heavy bottomed pot (with a lid) over medium heat. Add ½ cup chopped onions, 1.5 teaspoon finely chopped garlic, ¼ cup chopped celery, and 1 bay leaf. Sauté for 3 minutes.

TIP: Cut back on dishes by reusing the pot you used to cook your pasta.

onions, garlic, celery and bay leaf sautéing in silver stock pot

8. Add ½ cup chopped cauliflower florets, ½ cup chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped potato, ⅓ cup chopped baby corn and ⅓ cup chopped button mushrooms (or substitute roughly 3 cups of sturdy vegetables of choice). Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes stirring at intervals. 

TIP: As I stated earlier, this recipe is more of a template than something you need to follow to the letter. Use veggies that are in season, or whatever mix of frozen vegetables you happen to have on hand.

Just remember, if you use a mix of veggies with different cooking times, add the ones that take more time to cook (e.g. potatoes) earlier in the process, then add faster-cooking veggies (e.g. spinach) last.

mixed vegetables added to stock pot with sautéed aromatics

Step 4 – Add Tomato Purée and Seasonings

9. Add 1.5 cups tomato purée (or crushed tomatoes), ¼ cup tomato paste, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon crushed black pepper and salt as per taste. Don’t skimp on the tomato paste! It offers a lot of depth of flavor by lending a bit of umami.

TIP: If you want to make your own tomato purée, simply blitz, chopped 3 medium to large tomatoes (300 grams) in a blender until smooth.  

tomato puree, tomato paste and seasoning added to sautéed vegetables

10. Mix well and cook for one to two minutes. Cooking the tomato paste makes the flavor more intense.

liquid added to stock pot with veggies

Step 5 – Add Liquid

11. Add 4 to 4.5 cups Vegetable Stock (or water). Mix thoroughly.

TIP 1: You can adjust the consistency by adding more stock or water, so if you have a starchy blend of veggies that makes the minestrone too thick for your liking, simply add more. 

TIP 2: Do prefer to include homemade vegetable stock or broth in your minestrone. For packaged veggie stock, opt for low sodium or no sodium stock. Or else simply add water and the taste will still be good.

veggies simmering in tomato broth

12. Cover the pan and let veggies simmer until fork tender on low to medium-low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes.

lid on stock pot with veggies simmering in tomato broth

13. Check a couple of times when the veggies are cooking, ensuring that they don’t overcook. Mushy vegetables are not meant for a minestrone soup recipe!

TIP: To avoid having your some of your vegetables end up over- or under-cooked, be sure to cut them into even pieces.

minestrone soup simmering on the stove

14. As soon as the vegetables are fork tender, assemble the soup components.

ladleful of minestrone soup above the stockpot

Step 6 – Assemble Minestrone Soup

15. Add the cooked kidney beans. (If using canned beans, add 1.5 cups canned beans drained of all the liquids, rinsed thoroughly in water and drained of the water.) 

cooked beans in a strainer

16. Mix and simmer for a minute or more until the beans are warmed through.

beans added to soup pot

17. Add the cooked pasta.

cooked elbow macaroni added to vegetable minestrone soup

19. Mix gently and and simmer for a minute or more until the pasta is just warmed through, being careful not to overcook it.

minestrone soup simmering on stove

20. Switch off the heat and move the pan to a trivet on your countertop. Add ¼ cup chopped basil and ¼ cup grated vegetarian parmesan cheese (optional). 

TIP: While fresh basil is preferred for its bright color and aroma, feel free to substitute approximately 1 tablespoon of dried basil. (For future calculations, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs is approximately the same as 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs.)

grated vegetarian parmesan and fresh basil added to stock pot with minestrone

21. Stir gently to incorporate. Taste and season as necessary.

completed minestrone soup in stock pot

22. Pour soup in bowls (or mugs!) and serve hot. Garnish with some grated Parmesan cheese and torn basil leaves. Add a drizzle some extra virgin olive oil while serving for a bit of extra richness. Enjoy, preferably with a hunk of crusty bread in tow.

one light green and one light yellow enamel bowls filled with vegetable minestrone soup, garnished with parmesan cheese and basil with matching enamel spoons
Tips

Expert Tips

  1. Scaling: This recipe makes approximately 4 servings. Feel free to scale the recipe up or down according to your needs!
  2. Meal Prep: In the same vein as tip #1, feel free to use this minestrone soup recipe for your meal prep day. The soup will keep for up 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, or up to one month in the freezer. Do not add cheese and basil if you plan to freeze. Bonus tip: Freeze your soup in muffin tins, then store in a zip top plastic bag. Anytime a craving for soup strikes, pop 2-3 pucks of soup into a mug and warm in the microwave or in a pan on the stove-top for a healthy, homemade meal!
  3. Use In Season Veggies: Vegetables that are ripe unquestionably taste more delicious. Be sure to opt for veggies that are in season, or, if they aren’t, opt for frozen vegetables (or canned tomatoes!) instead. These veggies have been picked at peak ripeness and flash frozen, meaning they will be of better quality than out of season fresh veg.
  4. Vegan options: Omit the cheese or use vegan parmesan or cashew parmesan.

FAQs

What is the best shape of pasta for making minestrone recipe?

Any short pasta will do! I have used elbow macaroni in this recipe because it is easy to find. Feel free to use ziti, rotini, pasta wheels, ditalini or even broken lasagna noodles. Just be sure to cook according to package directions, as different shapes and even different brands will have different cook times.

What is the best kind of bean for making minestrone?

Part of the beauty of minestrone is how versatile it is. The entire idea of the recipe is to use what you have on hand. I personally find it is easiest to procure dried red kidney beans, but any bean or pulse will do. Just be sure to know the cook time of whatever dried bean you opt to use.

Canned beans (or lentils) are also perfectly acceptable. Be sure to drain them and rinse them in water before adding to the soup. If you are concerned about salt consumption, it is better to rinse the canned beans prior to adding them.

Add about 1.5 cups of preferred choice of canned beans. Be sure to drain them and rinse them in water before adding to the soup. Do a taste test first as sometimes canned beans can be bitter. If they are bitter discard them. 

Can I make minestrone soup recipe without beans?

Absolutely! I suggest including some starchy vegetables to replace some of the texture, though. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas and even cauliflower are good options. Alternatively, you can opt to add rice instead.

Can I make gluten free minestrone recipe?

Yes! Either opt for a gluten free pasta brand, or substitute rice or other vegetables. Like I said, this is more of a template than a strict recipe, much in keeping with the true origin of this beautifully rustic soup.

If you made this recipe, please be sure to rate it in the recipe card below. Sign Up for my email newsletter or you can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest or Twitter for more vegetarian inspirations.

overhead shot of vegetable minestrone soup in a yellow bowl garnished with parmesan cheese and fresh basil

Minestrone Soup

5 from 3 votes
Packed with vegetables, pasta and beans in a tomato-y broth, vegetarian Minestrone Soup is one of the first recipes I learned in cooking school decades ago. It is hearty, filling and wholesome, and I can almost guarantee that you're going to love it!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr

Cuisine Italian, World
Course: Soup
Diet: Vegetarian
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

For cooking beans

  • ½ cup dried kidney beans read notes section for other beans
  • 2 to 2.5 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For cooking pasta

  • 1 cup elbow macaroni or any small pasta
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Other ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 1.5 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup chopped cauliflower florets
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped potato or 1 large potato
  • cup chopped baby corn
  • cup chopped button mushrooms – optional
  • 1.5 cups Tomato Purée or crushed tomatoes or 300 grams/3 medium to large tomatoes – puréed
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon crushed black pepper
  • salt as required
  • 4 to 4.5 cups Vegetable Stock or water
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (vegetarian) – optional
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped basil

Instructions

Cooking Beans

  • If you are using canned beans, you can jump ahead to Cooking Pasta step.
  • Rinse and soak dried beans in 2 cups water overnight. Drain all the water and rinse the soaked beans with fresh water.
  • Cook soaked beans in water and salt till they are softened and tender using your favorite method. I have listed 3 options for cooking beans in the notes section. Once the beans are cooked to al dente, drain them and set aside for later. 

Cooking Pasta

  • In a pan or pot, take 3 cups water and let it come to a boil. Then add ½ teaspoon salt.
  • Add 1 cup elbow macaroni (or any small pasta variety).
  • Cook pasta on medium-high heat until al dente.
  • Strain the pasta using a colander or sieve. Cover and set aside.

Cooking Soup

  • Heat extra virgin olive oil in heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions, chopped garlic, chopped celery, and bay leaf. Sauté for 3 minutes.
  • Add chopped cauliflower florets, chopped carrots, potatoes, baby corn and button mushrooms (or substitute roughly 3 cups of sturdy vegetables of choice). Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes stirring at intervals. 
  • Add tomato purée (or crushed tomatoes), tomato paste, dried oregano, crushed black pepper and salt as per taste.
  • Mix well and cook for a minute.
  • Add 4 to 4.5 cups vegetable stock (or water). Mix thoroughly.
  • Cover the pan and let veggies simmer until fork tender.

Making Minestrone Soup

  • As soon as the vegetables are fork tender, assemble the soup components.
  • Add the cooked kidney beans. (If using canned beans, add 1.5 cups canned beans drained of all the liquids and rinsed in water and drained of water.) Mix and simmer for a minute or more until the beans are warmed through.
  • Add the cooked pasta. Mix gently and and simmer for a minute or more until the pasta is just warmed through, being careful not to overcook the it.
  • Switch off the heat and move the pan to a trivet on your countertop. 
  • Add ¼ cup chopped basil and ¼ cup grated vegetarian parmesan cheese. Stir to incorporate. Taste and season as necessary.

Serving Suggestions

  • Pour soup in bowls or mugs and serve hot. Garnish with some grated Parmesan cheese and torn basil leaves. 
  • Add a drizzle some extra virgin olive oil while serving for a bit of extra richness. Enjoy, preferably with some crusty bread or buttered toasts.

Storage

  • The soup will keep for up 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, or up to one month in the freezer. Do not add cheese and basil if you plan to freeze. 
  • Freeze your soup in muffin tins, then store in a zip top plastic bag. Anytime a craving for soup strikes, pop 2 to 3 pucks of soup into a mug and warm in the microwave or in a pan on the stove-top. Add cheese, basil and serve warm.

Notes

Options to cook beans

  • Option 1 – Instant Pot: Add soaked kidney beans, 2 to 2.5 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt. Seal the IP lid and move the valve to the sealing position. Pressure cook for 15 to 20 minutes on high pressure. Wait for 10 to 12 minutes after you hear the beep sound when the pressure cooking is complete. Lift the valve to release any extra pressure.
  • Option 2 – In a pan on the stove-top: Add the beans, 2.5 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt in a deep pan or pot. Cover and simmer on medium-heat until beans are tender. If the water froths too much, then remove the lid or cover pan partly with lid and simmer.
  • Option 3 – Stove-top pressure cooker: Add the soaked beans, 2 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt in a 2 litre pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 12 to 15 minutes on medium heat. When the pressure falls on its own in the cooker, open the lid.


Cooking Notes

  • Pasta: I recommend you read the package directions for your pasta. Cook times will vary widely depending on the shape and size of the noodles.
  • Beans:  Any bean or pulse works well. Just be sure to know the cook time of whatever dried bean you opt to use. Canned beans (or lentils) are also perfectly acceptable. Add about 1.5 cups of preferred choice of canned beans. Be sure to drain them and rinse them in water before adding to the soup. Do a taste test first as sometimes canned beans can be bitter. If they are bitter discard them. 
  • Pans: Cut back on dishes by reusing the pot you used to cook your pasta to sauté your veggies.
  • Veggies: Use veggies that are in season, or whatever mix of frozen vegetables you happen to have on hand. Just remember, if you use a mix of veggies with different cooking times, add the ones that take more time to cook (e.g. potatoes) earlier in the process, then add faster-cooking veggies (e.g. spinach) last. 
  • Make your own tomato puree: If you want to make your own tomato purée, simply blitz chopped 3 medium to large tomatoes (300 grams) in a blender until smooth.
  • Cooking Veggies: To avoid having your some of your vegetables end up over- or under-cooked, be sure to cut them into even pieces.
  • Herbs: While fresh basil is preferred for its bright color and aroma, feel free to substitute approximately 1 tablespoon of dried basil. (For future calculations, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs is approximately the same as 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs.)

Nutrition Info Approximate values

Nutrition Facts
Minestrone Soup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 431 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 4mg1%
Sodium 1820mg79%
Potassium 1212mg35%
Carbohydrates 65g22%
Fiber 9g38%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 16g32%
Vitamin A 4090IU82%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 4mg20%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin B12 1µg17%
Vitamin C 25mg30%
Vitamin D 1µg7%
Vitamin E 4mg27%
Vitamin K 23µg22%
Calcium 158mg16%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 134µg34%
Iron 5mg28%
Magnesium 100mg25%
Phosphorus 300mg30%
Zinc 2mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Meet Dassana

Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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