This minestrone soup is an updated Italian classic made with in the old-fashioned way with the usual carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, kale, zucchini, beans, and pasta…along with an unexpected drizzle of pesto that transforms a frugal veggie-bin catch-all into something that’s truly astounding.
Minestrone is such a versatile soup. It is basically an assortment of vegetables, some sort of bean and pasta. In Liguria, minestrone is topped with pesto. This is a Ligurian version with borlotti beans, other regions use cannellini or white beans. This version uses mostly winter vegetables; try it in the spring with asparagus and broad beans. In the summer, try it chilled.–Julia Azzarello
What makes vegetable soup into 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.
- 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.
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 will definitely substitute asparagus next time. We couldn’t find borlotti beans but cannellini beans were a good substitute. I couldn’t find tiny shells and used tiny bow ties (farfalline) instead, which were so cute. I think any tiny 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 minestrone soup a bit more if it were a cold blustery day, but it was 83° and sunny. And I still thought it was fairly tasty. It was quite 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 stock. We used Trader Joe’s pesto. The pesto is a definite “must.” Without it, the soup is too 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 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. Dial up the lemon and 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 for next time is 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 and 5 minutes wasn’t nearly enough time for them to become tender.
I also added another cup of water to the soup to loosen it up a bit as it was getting thick, which might have been because I used a can of finely chopped tomatoes which had 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 minestrone soup recipe away under “what to do with the remnants 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 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 pretty much always count on me to test a vegetarian soup recipe. We eat a LOT of soup here. And I was particularly intrigued as I had made another minestrone soup recently with dry Borlotti beans and wanted to compare them. I really enjoyed this recipe. 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 and even doubling and tripling the recipe. This version makes 4 very generous portions. You could probably even squeeze 6 out of it. Serve with some crusty bread and no one is complaining.
Originally published February 05, 2021