Italian Minestrone Soup ~ next to grandma’s chicken soup there’s nothing more comforting than a pot of minestrone bubbling away on the stove. This authentic recipe will warm you, satisfy you, fortify you, and slim you. Not bad for a bowl of soup.
When it comes to everyday soups, I alternate between a classic chicken broth soup and a brilliant red tomato/veg soup depending on what I feel like. These soups keep me cozy when it’s cold, and comforted when I’m under the weather. They also help me shed pounds because the high liquid and high fiber fills you up without excess calories. And they’re the ultimate thrifty recipe, making use of whatever’s in the crisper.
How do you make authentic minestrone soup?
That depends on who you ask. Minestrone is an ancient soup made all over Italy, and the recipe varies quite a bit. For me, the key ingredients in minestrone are a rich garlicky tomato broth, kidney beans (they must be kidney!) vegetables, and small pasta. Ditalini is traditional, but my store didn’t have it so I used mini farfalle. Any small pasta will do.
But of course I ‘great islandize‘ my minestrone, and that means a few things…I puree crushed tomatoes with a jar of roasted red peppers before adding it to the broth, this gives it a glorious deep crimson color and lots of extra flavor (no pale minestrone for me.) I use vibrant seasonal veggies like delicata squash, golden beets, and broccoflower (could have used Brussels sprouts as well,) in addition to the usual suspects like green beans and carrots.
I don’t go by a strict recipe, I just open a few cans, and chop and drop whatever’s in the crisper. I always season with bay leaves, garlic, and some chili flakes for heat. Oh, and I add a Parm rind to the broth if I have one, it adds the perfect hint of umami ‘funk’.
As you can see I like my minestrone on the chunky side, almost more stew than soup. I like to make a meal of it, and I want it to be satisfying.
Fresh greens add a boost of nutrition to vegetable soup
The last step in making this minestrone is to add a few good handfuls of greens just before serving,…that could be baby spinach like I used, or shredded kale, chard, or even basil. They’ll wilt into the broth almost instantly. A final topping of Parmesan cheese is essential to the experience, so don’t skip it unless you’re eating vegan.
Soup improves over time, as long as you don’t do this!
As long as you don’t over cook the vegetables, this soup will be even better the next day, although I’ve always thought that phenomenon was mostly because the soup is all ready and waiting for you, with no labor involved 🙂 The secret is to under cook the veggies just a bit, so they stay firm overnight.
Soup is my best kept diet secret
You’ve heard me say this before, but my secret weight loss weapon isn’t a fancy diet, pill, or weird shake…it’s soup! The magic of a healthy soup like this is that it fills you up and makes you feel satisfied without lots of calories. You can eat as much as you like. Leave out the pasta for even lower carbs.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- several inner stalks of celery, plus the leaves, sliced
- 32 ounces chicken, beef, or vegetable broth.
- 2 bay leaves
- Parmesan rind, optional but good!
- 26 ounces of strained or crushed tomatoes, I love Pomi
- 12 ounces roasted red peppers
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1/2 small delicata squash, halved, seeded, and sliced (no need to peel)
- 1 golden beet, diced or cut in small wedges
- 2 cups purple and orange cauliflower florets, sliced if large
- handful fresh green beans, sliced into 1 inch pieces
- 1 medium zucchini, cut in half moons
- 1 or 2 sliced red jalapeño peppers, or use dried chili flakes to taste, start with 1/2 tsp
- 15 ounce can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup cooked small cut pasta such as ditalini
- 2-3 handfuls fresh greens, I used baby spinach
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Add the oil and butter to a large soup pot and sauté the onion for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often. Add the celery and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the broth or stock, bay leaves, and cheese rind to the pan.
- While the onions etc are cooking puree the tomatoes and the red peppers in a food processor or blender until smooth.
- Add the tomato sauce to the pot and stir. Bring the soup up to a simmer, lower the heat, and cook for about 15 minutes.
- Add the denser veggies to the pot first, to give them a head start ~ I add the carrots, squash, and beets now. Let them simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Next add the cauliflower, beans, zucchini, red peppers (or dried flakes if using) and kidney beans. Cover and simmer until the veggies are tender. If the soup seems too thick, add a little water to thin it down.
- Stir in the cooked pasta and then add the greens. Stir them into the soup until they have wilted down.
- Remove the cheese rind and the bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with cheese and a drizzle of oil, if you like.
Make this classic minestrone soup your own ~
For an extra layer of flavor sauté some diced pancetta, sausage, or bacon along with the onions.
Change out the kidney beans for chickpeas, white, or black beans. If you love beans, add more than one kind.
If you love potatoes, add them.
Add shredded rotisserie chicken or sausage for extra protein.