This classic minestrone soup recipe is packed with greens, potatoes, vegetables, and more in a tomato-y broth. It's a hearty, easy, and healthy Italian soup that freezes well.
Minestrone soup is an Italian classic - and for good reason! The recipe is forgiving and easily adaptable to what ingredients you have on hand, with the leftovers getting better day by day. All the markings of a great soup.
Everyone does their own thing with minestrone, but some common threads include a tomato-y broth base, a vegetable-heavy focus and the addition of beans. What those vegetables are varies by personal preference and season, with some versions vegetarian and some with meat.
Over the years I've honed my own recipe taking direction from Pellegrino Artusi in his 1891 cookbook Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. This means I add meat (bacon in place of his prosciutto) and grains (short pasta to his rice).
130+ years later I also take advantage of the convenience of canned beans, prepare this soup over the comforts of an electric stovetop rather than on the fire, and am fortunate not to worry about cholera as he detailed in his unexpectedly humorous recipe headnote.
- Bacon: This is a minestrone soup with bacon and I'm partial to a thick-cut bacon for soups - the thicker, the better.
- Soffritto: A classic Italian recipe base of onion, carrots, and celery softened in olive oil.
- Garlic: Freshly minced garlic has a brighter flavor than the jarred kind.
- Tomato Paste: This brings a tomato base to the broth. If using frozen tomato paste (so easy to have on hand!) there's no need to thaw before adding to the recipe.
- Spices: This section makes the recipe ingredients list look long as they're listed individually. An equivalent substitute of your favorite pre-mixed Italian seasoning works in place of these.
- Wine: This can be omitted, but if using, choose a drier red wine variety like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, or Merlot.
- Broth: Either chicken or beef broth work.
- Diced Tomatoes: I usually go with plain here, but fire-roasted or ones with Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, and garlic) are also good.
- Beans: Several varieties work: cannellini beans, great northern beans, or red kidney beans. Borlotti beans (also known as cranberry beans) would be most authentic, but they're not easy to come by in the U.S.
- Potatoes: While russet potatoes are fine, I recommend Yukon gold. They hold their shape and texture really well in a soup.
- Kale: Lacinato kale (also called dinosaur or Tuscan kale) is a hearty green for minestrone soup as it doesn't shrink much or get slimy.
- Pasta: Small, short shapes work best, including ditalini, orzo, stelline, or shells.
- Pecorino: A solid block simmers and infuses the broth with a silky flavor (love it in escarole and beans). A rind piece can be used, but I find it easier to simply slice off a regular piece from the wedge as it'll melt right in. Parmesan works, too.
- Cook the bacon. Chop the bacon into small pieces, then cook it fully in your soup pot. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper-towel lined plate for now and remove most of the bacon grease from the pot, leaving about 1 Tablespoon.
- Make the soffritto. Add olive oil to the pot and sauté the onion, carrots, and celery for 7 minutes before adding the garlic and cooking for one more minute.
- Caramelize the tomato paste. Add the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes. it will clump up but stir it into the vegetable as it caramelizes.
- Deglaze with wine. Pour in the wine and scrape up the fond that developed on the bottom of the pot. Let the wine simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- The first simmer. Add broth, diced tomatoes, dried seasonings, the cooked bacon, and whole piece of Parmesan or Pecorino. Simmer for 20 minutes (or longer).
- The second and third simmers. Add potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, or until fork-tender. Then add the beans, kale, and pasta and simmer again for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is fully cooked. Stir in parsley before serving.
Ways I Tested This Minestrone Soup
I don't often measure everything closely when I cook minestrone, but broke out my measuring cups and kitchen scale to precisely test 3 different iterations before publishing the recipe here. Here are some things I considered:
- Meat: Pancetta perhaps is a more traditional option but it got a little lost in soup. I like the more impactful smokiness of bacon.
- Broth: Chicken, beef, or a mix of chicken and beef depending upon what's open - all good.
- Wine: It adds nice depth to the flavor, but can be omitted. Deglaze with a small amount of broth instead.
- Greens: Fresh spinach leaves work in a pinch, but I prefer the heartiness of kale as it doesn't wilt up as much or risk getting 'slimy'. If Lacinato kale isn't available, regular curly kale is fine (and a better option than spinach).
- Cheese: I've made this with Parmesan and Pecorino Romano - both great, just choose your favorite.
Expert Tips and Tricks
- Don't close the lid. A tightly-fitted lid will hinder evaporation and prevent the soup from thickening as quickly and developing a more concentrated flavor. Leave a nice crack open during the first simmer, then remove the lid entirely for the remainder of the recipe.
- Don't forget the bay leaves. Remember to fish out the bay leaves before adding the kale as all those kale leaves make it difficult to find them.
- Don't skimp on toppings. Grated/shredded Parmesan or Pecorino Romano is the ultimate minestrone soup topping. Freshly shredded has the most impactful, freshest flavor, but a pre-shredded tub from the refrigerated deli case is fine, too. I've been partial to grated Locatelli Pecorino for soup-topping purposes since I was a kid!
Frequently Asked Questions
Omit the bacon, use vegetable broth, and search out a vegetarian hard Italian cheese. Traditional Parmigiano Reggiano/Pecorino Romano cheeses are not vegetarian as they're produced with animal-derived rennet. These days more brands are offering Parmesans made with vegetarian enzymes instead - the label should call this out. I am not aware of a vegetarian Pecorino.
No, you don't need to use any wine in minestrone soup. Simply leave it out and deglaze the pot with roughly half-cup of broth instead.
Green beans, zucchini or yellow squash, and peas are other common vegetables to include in minestrone soup. Add fresh green beans and zucchini/squash after the first simmer, along with the potatoes. Frozen vegetables can be added directly to the soup without thawing, though your soup may need a little extra time to cook them completely. Frozen peas cook quickly can be added during the last few minutes.
More Cozy Soup Recipes
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- 4 slices bacon chopped
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 large carrots peeled and chopped
- 2 large celery ribs chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ½ cup dry red wine (optional)
- 8 cups reduced-sodium chicken or beef broth
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes undrained
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
- ¾ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary sprigs
- ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ounce piece of Pecorino or Parmesan
- 1 medium-large Russet or gold potato ¾-inch cubed
- 1 15.5-ounce can cannellini beans rinsed and drained
- 1 bunch Tuscan (Lacinato) kale center ribs removed and leaves roughly chopped
- ½ cup uncooked ditalini pasta or orzo or other small shape
- 3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley for serving
- Shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
- Chop bacon and add to a large Dutch oven or pot set over medium heat. Cook fully, then transfer bacon crumbles to a plate lined with a paper towel. Set the bacon aside for now.
- Carefully remove all but around 1 Tablespoon of the bacon grease, then add olive oil to the pot. Set the pot back on the stove over medium heat. Once heated add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté for 7 minutes or until softened and starting to turn golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
- Add the tomato paste to the vegetables and cook for 3 minutes so it begins to caramelize. It will clump up, but stir it around the pot with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks.
- Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the stuck-on bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook the wine for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the broth, undrained diced tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, rosemary, dried marjoram, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, bay leaves, piece of Parmesan or Pecorino, and the cooked bacon crumbles. Simmer partially-covered (have the lid cracked open as much as you can to allow steam to escape) for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes add the potato and simmer for 15 minutes uncovered, until the potatoes are fork-tender.
- Remove the bay leaves, then add the rinsed and drained beans, kale, and ditalini. Adjust heat to a heavy simmer for 15 minutes uncovered, or until the pasta is fully-cooked. Stir often from the bottom of the pot as to not allow the pasta to stick.
- Stir in parsley once ready to serve, taste and add more salt if desired, then serve alongside additional Parmesan/Pecorino.
- Wine is optional: If not using wine, simply omit it and deglaze the pot with some of the broth.
- Size of kale bunches: Lacinato kale bunches can vary in size, from 8 ounces up to one pound or greater. Anywhere in that range is fine - the amount of greens used doesn't have to be exact.
- To make minestrone soup vegetarian: Omit the bacon and add an extra Tablespoon of olive oil in place of the bacon grease, use vegetable broth, and choose a vegetarian Parmesan (made without animal rennet).
- Storage instructions: Portion leftover soup into air-tight containers and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- Freezing instructions: Chill soup in the refrigerator, then transfer containers to the freezer for at least 3 months.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer