How To Make Classic Minestrone Soup

updated Sep 2, 2022
How to Make the Best-Ever Classic Minestrone Soup

This soup is full of tender, hearty vegetables in a Parmesan tomato-herb broth and finished with a swirl of bright green pesto.

Serves6 to 8

Makes3 quarts

Prep15 minutes

Cook1 hour

Jump to Recipe
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Chilly winter nights call for steaming bowls of soup. Vegetable varieties not only offer respite from the cold, but they also serve as a break from the season’s abundance of heavy, creamy casseroles. This classic minestrone boasts hearty vegetables in a tomato-herb broth, finished with a swirl of bright green pesto. Serve with crusty chunks of bread and shavings of Parmesan cheese for a cozy winter dinner.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

What’s the Difference Between Minestrone and Vegetable Soup?

Like its cousins ribolita and pasta e fagioli, minestrone soup is a brothy Italian vegetable soup. According to Marcella Hazan in her cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule on which vegetables must be present to make it minestrone — different regions of Italy use different vegetables, and the soups change with the season.

Essentially, minestrone is a thick, hearty variety of vegetable soup, thanks to the addition of beans and sometimes pasta or rice. Tomatoes, carrots, onion, and celery are usually included, with other vegetables added at the cook’s discretion. This minestrone recipe embraces the variety of vegetables available year-round, so it’s just the thing to make whether you’re shoveling out from a snowstorm mid-January or escaping a blustery and rainy day at the end of March.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Best Minestrone Soup, with Inspiration from Ina

The minestrone soup I’ve been serving for years began as Ina Garten’s Winter Minestrone soup, but since I can’t help but tinker with a recipe, it has since morphed into my own. I often skip the pancetta, and substitute whatever melange of vegetables I have in the crisper drawer. But there are two components of Ina’s recipe that I never skip: flavoring the broth with a generous scoop of pesto and serving the thickened soup with crusty bread.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3 Tips for Making Minestrone Soup You Actually Want to Eat

  1. Cook vegetables in stages. The key to a soup that actually has texture (and isn’t just a broth filled with mushy vegetables) is to add the vegetables in stages. Begin with a mirepoix — the classic trio of onion, celery, and carrot — which boosts the flavor of the store-bought broth. Next, add long-cooking, dense vegetables, like sweet potatoes or winter squash. Finally, stir in tender vegetables, like zucchini and garlic (which is prone to burning). You’ll cook each round until the vegetables brighten in color and just begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add flavor at every step. Sautéing the vegetables in both olive oil and butter adds richness and body to the soup from the get-go. Adding in a Parmesan rind gives the broth a big boost, as does store-bought pesto. Pesto is packed with concentrated flavor, thanks to chopped herbs, nuts, and cheese. It also gives the soup a rich consistency.
  3. Leave out the pasta (or serve it on the side): Many minestrone recipes are made with short pasta, but here, we opt for creamy cannellini beans. Pasta can absorb a lot of the broth, especially if you’re storing leftovers or freezing the soup, making it mushy. But if you insist on noodles in your soup, cook short noodles (I recommend ditalini or macaroni) separately and stir them into the soup upon serving.
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Storing Minestrone Soup

This soup will thicken in the refrigerator as the residual heat of the broth continues to cook the vegetables and they release their starches, so stir in another splash of broth when you reheat leftovers.

If you’re meal prepping this soup or making it ahead of time, cool the soup, then pack into deli containers or ladle into freezer-safe zip-top bags. Lay the bags flat on a baking sheet and freeze. Once solid, they can be stored vertically in the freezer where they take up less space and are easy to thaw.

Credit: Joe Lingeman
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Here's how to make classic Minestrone soup.

How to Make the Best-Ever Classic Minestrone Soup

This soup is full of tender, hearty vegetables in a Parmesan tomato-herb broth and finished with a swirl of bright green pesto.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Makes 3 quarts

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 6

    medium stalks celery

  • 1

    large zucchini

  • 3

    medium carrots

  • 1

    small sweet potato

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    white beans, such as cannellini or Great Northern

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

  • 1

    (2x3-inch) Parmesan rind

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    diced tomatoes

  • 6 cups

    low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

  • 1/2

    medium lemon

  • 2 tablespoons

    basil pesto, plus more for serving

  • 4 cups

    baby spinach or baby kale

  • Parmesan cheese and crusty bread, for serving

Equipment

  • Chef’s knife and cutting board

  • Measuring cups

  • Vegetable peeler

  • Can opener

  • Fine-mesh strainer

  • Large stockpot or Dutch oven

  • Wooden spoon

  • Ladle

Instructions

  1. Prepare the vegetables. Dice the following (no larger than 1/2-inch), keeping them separate: 1 medium yellow onion (about 1 cup), 6 medium stalks celery (about 2 cups), 1 large zucchini (about 2 cups), 3 peeled medium carrots (about 1 1/4 cups), and 1 peeled small sweet potato (about 2 cups). Finely chop 2 garlic cloves. Drain and rinse 1 can white beans.

  2. Sauté the mirepoix. Place 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the butter melts and begins to sizzle, add the onion and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and sauté until softened but not browned about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook until brightened in color, 3 to 5 minutes.

  3. Sauté the vegetables. Add the sweet potato and sauté until slightly softened at the edges, about 3 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and garlic, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.

  4. Add seasonings, tomatoes, and broth. Add 1 (2x3-inch) Parmesan rind, 1 can diced tomatoes and their juices, 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, and the beans. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

  5. Simmer for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the carrots and sweet potato are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

  6. Remove the Parmesan rind. Remove and discard the Parmesan rind.

  7. Stir in the pesto, lemon juice, and greens. Squeeze in the juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon). Stir in 2 tablespoons basil pesto and 4 cups baby spinach or baby kale and simmer until combined and the greens wilt. Taste and season with salt as needed.

  8. Serve the soup. Ladle the soup into bowls. Thinly shave Parmesan cheese with a Y-peeler and scatter onto the soup, and drizzle with more pesto. Serve with crusty bread.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Vegetables can be chopped and stored separately up to 3 days in advance.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Soup thickens upon refrigeration, add more broth when reheating as needed.

Pasta variation: Stir in 1 cup dry short pasta, such as ditalini or macaroni during the final 6 to 8 minutes of cooking or add leftover cooked pasta to individual serving dishes.

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