Minestrone is a marvelously versatile soup. Basically, it’s a jumble of veggies, beans, and your favorite shape of small pasta. According to author Julia Azzarello, minestrone is topped with a drizzle of herby pesto in the region of Liguria.

This Ligurian version is brimming with borlotti beans, but cannellini or white beans work just as well. Also, here, you’ll find lots of winter vegetables, but in spring, try it with asparagus, spring onions, and broad beans. In summer, toss in your favorite greens and serve it chilled.

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

There’s a whole bunch of reasons our recipe testers happily slurped up this old-fashioned minestrone soup. They found it to be simple and straightforward, and loved that the addition of pesto “took the soup to a whole new level.”

Trisha T. joined in with her comment, “This minestrone soup was everything we wanted it to be—chock-full of vegetables, filling, and delicious. We absolutely loved every bite of this soup and look forward to making it again.”

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • Fresh vegetables–This recipe uses a wide variety of vegetables and is excellent as written, but if you’ve got some extra veggies hanging out in your crisper, feel free to substitute them here.
  • Pasta–Any small pasta will work here, whether ditalini, orzo, or pastina. Substitute gluten-free pasta to make the soup suitable for gluten-free diets.
  • Pesto–Use your favorite homemade or store-bought pesto to really elevate the soup. We love it with classic Genovese pesto.

How to Make This Recipe

  1. Cook the vegetables. Sauté the onion, carrot, celery, and potato in the oil until softened. Add the garlic and zucchini and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Simmer the soup. Stir in the tomatoes and water or broth and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the beans, pasta, green beans, and kale, and cook until tender.
  3. Serve the minestrone soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divvy between serving bowls and swirl in a good-size drizzle of pesto.

Common Questions

What’s the difference between vegetable soup and minestrone?

Minestrone is a vegetable soup, strictly speaking, but it’s better. The addition of beans and pasta bulks up minestrone in a way that other soup falls short. Think of it as veggie soup plus.

Does traditional minestrone contain meat?

No. Classic minestrone soup doesn’t contain meat or fish.

What should I serve this with?

This healthy soup is overflowing with vegetables. It’s a meal in itself, but we’re always happy to have a loaf of warm crusty bread alongside for dipping and dunking.

Helpful Tips

  • Leftover soup can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The pasta may absorb more liquid as it sits, so add a splash of broth or water when reheating it to loosen up the soup.
  • We don’t recommend freezing this soup as the potatoes and pasta may become mushy after thawing and reheating.
  • This is suitable for dairy-free, vegan, and vegetarian diets. To make it gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.

More Great Vegetable Soup Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Three bowls of minestrone soup with a small bowl of pesto on the side.

Old-Fashioned Minestrone Soup

5 / 2 votes
This old-fashioned minestrone soup is chock-full of carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, kale, zucchini, beans, and pasta…but gets an unexpected drizzle of pesto that transforms a frugal veggie-bin soup into something special.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories348 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium (about 9 oz) onion, diced to 1/2 inch (12 mm)
  • 1 large (about 3 oz) carrot, peeled and diced to 1/2 inch (12 mm)
  • 2 medium (about 4 oz) celery sticks, diced to 1/2 inch (12 mm)
  • 3 1/2 ounces red potato, peeled and diced to 1/2 inch (12 mm)
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 1/2 ounces zucchini, diced to 1/2 inch (12 mm)
  • One (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 cups water or vegetable stock, plus more if needed
  • One (14-ounce) can borlotti or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 1/2 ounces tiny pasta shells, such as ditalini
  • 3 1/2 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch (25-mm) lengths (or substitute asparagus)
  • 3 1/2 ounces lacinto kale, stems trimmed and leaves roughly chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons store-bought or homemade pesto, for serving


  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the oil.
  • Add the onion, carrot, celery, and potato, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 10 minutes.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: If your vegetables stick to the saucepan, toss in a splash of water.

  • Add the garlic and zucchini and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and water or stock and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes.
  • Add the borlotti or cannellini beans, pasta, green beans, and kale, and cook until the beans, pasta, and vegetables are tender, adding more stock or water if a thinner consistency is desired, about 12 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divvy the soup among 4 bowls and stir a tablespoon of pesto into each portion to swirl. Serve right away. And accept accolades on how darn lovely something so exceptionally healthy can be.


  1. Storage and reheating–Leftover soup can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The pasta may absorb more liquid as it sits, so add a splash of broth or water when reheating it to loosen the soup.
  2. Freezing–We don’t recommend freezing this soup as the potatoes and pasta may become mushy after thawing and reheating.
  3. Dietary–This is suitable for dairy-free, vegan, and vegetarian diets. To make it gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.
Skinny Pasta Cookbook

Adapted From

Skinny Pasta

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 348 kcalCarbohydrates: 56 gProtein: 13 gFat: 10 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gCholesterol: 1 mgSodium: 1945 mgFiber: 10 gSugar: 11 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Julia Azzarello. Photo © 2019 Tara Fisher. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This minestrone soup was everything we wanted it to be—chock-full of vegetables, filling, and delicious. We absolutely loved every bite of this soup and look forward to making it again.

It required a lot of chopping but was otherwise simple and straightforward. It’s also easily customizable to your tastes.

My partner isn’t a huge fan of green beans, so we’ll definitely substitute asparagus next time. We couldn’t find borlotti beans, but cannellini beans were a good substitute.

I couldn’t find tiny shells, so I used tiny bow ties (farfalline) instead, which were so cute. Any small pasta would work. I used mostly vegetable stock with a little water.

The pesto truly takes the soup to a whole new level and brings it all together.

I think I might have appreciated this old-fashioned minestrone soup a bit more if it were a cold, blustery day, but it was 83° and sunny! Yet, I still thought it was tasty. It was surprisingly light and flavorful and would be good for your vegetarian guests.

I prepared the soup in a 5-quart Dutch oven. I used vegetable stock along with borlotti beans. The pasta definitely made the soup thick, and I added another 1/2 cup of stock.

We used Trader Joe’s pesto. The pesto is a definite “must.” Without it, the soup is bland. A bit more salt and maybe some red pepper flakes would also be good.

In the future, I’d prepare the pasta separately until it was done and then add it to the soup.

I’ve started to think of this old-fashioned minestrone soup as “100 Gram Minestrone.” I’m hopelessly dedicated to my digital scale, and it didn’t take me long to note that almost every ingredient weighs 100 grams, which gives me much more pleasure than it should.

Seasoning at every step was my deviation from the author’s instructions. I’ve learned from one too many bland, watery soups. I also used well-salted homemade vegetable stock.

The last trick was a spectacular dollop of pesto—almost unnecessary on soup this good. I used the pumpkin seed pesto on this site.

If you dial up the lemon, the pesto doesn’t even need the cheese. (I usually hold back on the oil and use just enough to moisten the slurry. It’s perfect.)

I used tubetti rigati and pinto beans. I did need to top off leftovers with additional stock after refrigerating overnight. The pasta sucks up the stock a bit.

We love good soups, and we really LOVED this one!! This was indeed the best minestrone soup we’ve ever had, and the swirl of pesto was the perfect finish for this richly flavored vegetable soup. So good!

The only thing I’d change next time would be adding the green beans to the soup along with the cannellini beans and pasta to give them more time to become tender. I used skinny French green beans; five minutes wasn’t enough time for them to become tender.

I also added another cup of water to the soup to loosen it up as it was getting thick, which might have been because I used a can of finely chopped tomatoes with more tomato pulp than regular chopped tomatoes.

This is a very versatile soup, and I can see all kinds of wonderful possibilities with farmers-market produce. This soup got a perfect 10 rating from us.

File this old-fashioned minestrone soup recipe away under “what to do with the remains of the veggie drawer” or “how to make my family eat more vegetables.”

I didn’t expect this minestrone to taste better than an average soup and I was surprised to find how tasty it was, even before adding the pesto!

This would be great for a meatless Monday supper when entertaining vegetarians or to pack as lunch for the week. You could definitely switch up the veggies, beans, and pasta to use what you have in the pantry.

I used homemade chicken stock and Trader Joe’s radiatore pasta.

You can always count on me to test a vegetarian soup recipe. We eat a LOT of soup here. And I was particularly intrigued, as I’d made another minestrone soup recently with dry borlotti beans and wanted to compare them.

I really enjoyed this soup. It was super quick to make. It’s much heartier tasting than I had anticipated. And it’s a satisfying meal even before you swirl in the pesto.

Additionally, I still had a bunch of pesto in my freezer from last summer’s basil harvest, so I’m psyched to have another way to use it. I could see us making this again, doubling and tripling the recipe.

This version makes four very generous portions. You could probably even squeeze 6 out of it. Serve with some crusty bread, and no one is complaining.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Thank you so much for this recipe and also for including nutrition information. I have a question though about the number of servings relative to the calorie count. The number of servings is listed as 4-6 and the calorie count is listed as 348 calories per serving. Should the calorie count be read as 348 calories @ 4 servings OR 348 calories @ 6 servings? Obviously, if the recipe is divided into 6 servings vs. 4, each serving will be smaller. Which size serving does the calorie count refer to? Thanks so much for clarification!

    1. Fran, you’re more than welcome. It’s a wonderful recipe. I corrected the number of servings. The 348 calories are for 4 servings. If you make 6 servings, that would be 232 calories.

  2. Followed all ingredients, delish!
    Because my 92 year old mom has digestive issues, I peeled off the skin on the celery and mashed apx 3/4 of the beans – in turn a surprise was it helped thicken the soup, so a win win!! I have a bunch more recipes that I’m looking forward to trying.

    1. Wonderful, Judy! We’re delighted that this turned out so well. Please let us know what you try next.