My Grandma’s easy, traditional minestrone soup recipe is one of the healthiest vegetable-heavy soups you’ll make, and it tastes far better than any of those Olive Garden minestrone soup copycat recipes thanks to the secret ingredient in the savory broth.
There’s nothing like beloved core family recipes from your childhood. They just hit differently, you know? Just like my mom’s pot roast and spaghetti with meat sauce, this comforting minestrone soup was a staple as I was growing up, and is one of my favorite memories associated with my Grandma Frieda. Her recipe comes from San Francisco’s Petrini Gourmet Grocery Stores and was likely cut from the San Mateo Times’ newspaper recipe section to promote more soup bone sales for the homemade beef broth.
Minestrone is a thick vegetable soup and it’s the perfect gateway to woo non-veggie lovers into getting a head start on their five-a-day. The brothy yet hearty soup is also loaded up with beans, potatoes, pasta, and Parmesan. Most people think classic minestrone soup as a vegetarian soup, but Petrini’s recipe begins with salt pork. Because we’re living in modern times, I use bacon, but pancetta would also be delish. Grandma’s newspaper recipe also calls for a super simple stock of bones and water slow-simmered for flavor. But I like a richer, heartier stock so my homemade beef stock fit the bill here. Or if you prefer, use chicken broth (this is my favorite homemade) or veggie stock instead. You should seriously stop what you’re doing and go make this soup right now.
What’s in Minestrone Soup
Because this soup has the simplest of ingredients and can be made with ease, the key is starting with the best quality you can find or afford. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Bacon (you could also use pancetta)
- Beef stock (chicken or vegetable stock or broth would also work just fine)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Parmesan cheese and Parmesan rind
- Macaroni (or another small pasta shape of your choice)
- Diced canned tomatoes
- Red kidney beans
- Frozen peas
Pro Tip: The other source for this soup’s distinctive minestrone flavor comes from the awesome umami of Parmesan cheese, and while grandma’s recipe doesn’t call for it I have a secret that I learned of long ago: to cook the broth with a few leftover rinds of Parmesan cheese. This step really imparts that cheesy flavor and takes your broth from a tepid vegetable flavor to a minestrone all the way.
How to Make Minestrone Soup
Cook the bacon. I do this in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook it until browned. Then, I toss in the onion, carrots, leeks, and celery and cook until the veggies have softened.
Add the umami. Next, in goes the beef stock, kosher salt, pepper, and cheese rinds. I bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes.
Simmer and build flavor. Add in the potatoes, macaroni, and tomatoes, then partially cover the minestrone soup and let it cook for another 20 minutes before adding in the kidney beans and peas (you don’t want to overcook those).
Top with plenty of Parmesan and serve. Just before serving this crazy delicious minestrone soup, I stir in freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
What is the Difference Between Minestrone and Vegetable Soup?
Vegetable soup doesn’t typically have pasta or beans in it, while minestrone does, but both are considered vegetable soups.
Can I Add Other Vegetables to Minestrone?
Absolutely! One of the best things about this Italian soup is it can truly be a clean-out-the-fridge recipe you can fiddle with based on what you have on hand or what’s in season. Traditionally, the are the vegetables that most often show up:
- Beans (kidney and Great Northern beans are my favorites)
- Cabbage (shred it thin)
- Green beans (canned works wonders)
- Fresh herbs, like basil, oregano, or parsley, or garlic would also be yummy, as would bay leaves
Tips for Making the Best Minestrone Soup
- Use a small macaroni or pasta that matches the diced size of your veggies for equal taste in every bite.
- If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own stock from scratch, always choose a grocery store version that’s high quality with ingredients you can actually read.
- Homemade minestrone freezes incredibly well. I recommend freezing it in individual containers (like glass jars) so you can reheat a single serving at a time for quick lunches and dinners.
- To make this minestrone soup vegan, skip the bacon and use a rich vegetable stock in lieu of beef stock, and use olive oil to sauté your veggies, since you won’t have any bacon grease to cook them in.
What to Serve with Minestrone
- The BEST Garlic Bread
- Outrageous Herbaceous Chickpea Salad
- Ultimate Italian Salad Platter
- Killer Garlic Rolls
- Chicken Caprese Sandwich
- Pepperoni Pizza Rolls
- Kale Salad with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
More Easy Soup Recipes to Make
- The Best French Onion Soup
- The Best Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
- Matzo Ball Soup with Chicken Meatballs
- Vegetarian Crockpot Lasagna Soup
- Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean and Sausage Soup
- Homemade Beef Broth or Stock
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