A delicious minestrone soup recipe after traditional Italian fashion: Packed full of healthy vegetables, beans, pasta and featuring a deliciously rich broth infused with smoky pancetta or bacon!
What is Minestrone Soup?
Of Italian origin, Minestrone is a thick soup featuring a variety of vegetables (traditionally including beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions and whatever else is on hand in the garden) and also includes small pasta and/or, less commonly, rice. Its origins pre-date Roman times and, due to scarcity of meat, was often a vegetarian dish, sometimes with scraps of smoked meats used for flavor. With the establishment of the Roman Empire and the influx of trade and more wealth, meat and meat broths were more commonly included but the Romans continued to hold to what they considered a healthy diet consisting of lots of vegetables, legumes and grains.
This minestrone soup recipe reflects that tradition of a healthy and wholesome soup packed full of vegetables and utilizing just enough meat (some smoky pancetta or bacon) for flavor.
When it comes to minestrone soup the word “traditional” is tricky. It isn’t traditional in that it abides by a specific set of ingredients, rather it’s traditional in its purpose: Namely, to utilize and make do with whatever seasonal vegetables happen to be on hand. And so when it comes to an “authentic” Italian minestrone soup, the fact is that traditional recipes are as wide and varied as the vegetables in a traditional Italian garden. Literally. Minestrone is meant to be a seasonal soup and so a “traditional” minestrone soup would look very different in the spring and summer than in the fall and winter.
Is Minestrone Soup Vegetarian?
As noted above, in Italy minestrone is made both with and without meat. It’s a soup that traditional belongs wo whose purpose is to use whatever is on hand. Traditionally even when meat was scarce or unaffordable, pancetta would commonly be added to create a rich, meaty-flavored broth because a little piece of pancetta goes along way in infusing a broth with the most wonderful flavor.
A variation of minestrone is Minestrone alla Genovese from the Liguria region of northern Italy which includes pesto that’s either stirred in at the end or added to individual bowls of soup. If you’re going to omit the pancetta to make this a vegetarian minestrone, including some pesto will add wonderful depth of flavor to your soup.
To make a vegetarian minestrone simply omit the pancetta and use vegetable broth. To make a vegan minestrone do the same and use vegan Parmesan cheese.
Is Minestrone Soup Gluten-Free?
Minestrone soup traditionally includes pasta and can sometimes, though less commonly, include rice. To make a gluten free minestrone soup you can either use gluten free pasta or use rice.
Minestrone Soup Recipe
For the best minestrone soup, use the best vegetables and broth you can find.
If you’re not making your own broth we use and recommend Aneto as the closest to store-bought broth there is to homemade. Based in Barcelona, Spain, Aneto’s broths reflect the very highest commitment to quality. Made with 100% real, natural ingredients with no additives, flavor enhancers, powders or preservatives, they make their broths like you do in your own kitchen using fresh vegetables, real bone-in chicken, olive oil and sea salt, and simmer it low and slow in huge commercial-sized cooking pots. Read more about our tour of Aneto’s factory in Spain. We cannot recommend them highly enough.
You can find Aneto’s chicken broth in various stores across the U.S. (click link for store locator) or you can also buy it on Amazon (FYI: The Amazon prices fluctuate dramatically from time to time and there are times when the in-store prices are vastly better.) We use Aneto’s 100% natural chicken broth for this minestrone. If you’re making the vegetarian version, Aneto also makes a fabulous vegetable broth.
Let’s get started!
Fry the pancetta or bacon in a stock pot. Add the onions, carrot and celery and cook for 5-7 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Add the tomato paste and herbs and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the red wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for two minutes.
Add the chicken broth.
Add the beans and the veggies (except for the kale).
Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
Add the pasta and simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes. (I’m using tripolini pasta that I brought back with me from our most recent trip to Italy.)
Add the kale and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
For more delicious soups and stews try our:
- Ham and Bean Soup
- Cream of Mushroom Soup
- Beef Barley Soup
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Wonton Soup
- New England Clam Chowder
- Curried Lentil Soup
- White Bean and Sausage Soup
- Pozole Rojo
- Cream of Celery Soup
- German Potato Soup
- Italian Wedding Soup
ULTIMATE Minestrone Soup
- 6 ounces diced pancetta or bacon
- 1 medium yellow onion , diced
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 large carrots , diced
- 3 ribs celery , diced
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 8 cups quality chicken broth (we use and recommend Aneto 100% natural chicken broth)
- 4 Roma tomatoes , diced
- 1 medium potato , diced
- 15 ounce can cannellini beans , drained and rinsed
- 15 ounce can kidney beans or borlotti/cranberry beans , drained and rinsed
- 1/2 pound green beans , trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup shelled green peas (canned, fresh or frozen)
- 3/4 cup ditalini or other tiny pasta (I used tripolini in the photos)
- 3 cups chopped kale , or greens of choice, e.g. Swiss chard, collards, spinach
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese , for serving (optional)
- Fry the pancetta or bacon in a stock pot. Add the onions, carrot and celery and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and herbs and cook for another 2-3 minutes.Add the red wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for two minutes.Add the chicken broth.Add the beans and the vegetables (except for the kale).Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Add the pasta and simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes. Add the kale and simmer for another 3-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.