This minestrone soup is an easy dinner that comes together quickly and is chock full of vegetables and beans. It's super healthy, good for you, and filling, too! Perfect for winter or any time you're craving a cozy meal.
Homemade Minestrone Soup
Once the temperature drops, cravings for warm, cozy, filling soups hit me hard. There's just nothing like a bowl of goodness that warms you from the inside out!
And this minestrone soup might be one of my favorite — if not my all-time fave — Italian soups. It's packed with vegetables and beans, and is built on a foundation of homemade chicken broth. (Store-bought is fine, but if you're not making your own, you definitely should. Trust me, it's a game-changer!)
This soup is my idea of a perfect meal. It has tons of fresh vegetables and beans in it with a just hint of flavor from some bacon (or pancetta if you want to make it even more Italian!)
This soup is also a great meal for folks who are sick or in need of a comfort meal. I delivered some of this to a sick friend recently, and I was told that it really hit the spot!
But first, let's explore the origins of minestrone soup.
What Exactly Is Minestrone?
Minestrone (pronounced men-eh-strone-y), also commonly referred to simply as vegetable soup, is exactly that — a hearty, tomato-y broth-based soup comprised of a variety of vegetables, legumes (most often cannelloni or navy beans), and even pasta or rice (optional, but delicious!). I've been working hard on perfecting this recipe to my Italian palette, and I'm excited to share it with you!
Minestrone was traditionally made in Italy as a way to use up leftover vegetables before they spoiled. And my mother still does this to this day! For this Italian minestrone soup recipe, I used a medley of veggies including carrots, garlic, onion, zucchini, cabbage, and celery; as well as cannelloni beans and canned tomatoes. This vegetable soup is a delicious and economic way to clean out your fridge and pantry.
Now, I used canned beans here instead of cooking my own, which helps to drastically cut the cooking time down to a reasonable weeknight dinner amount. But, if you have the time or desire to use dried beans, go for it! This is a good way to limit the amount of sodium in your soup.
I've listed some other alternative ingredients for this minestrone below, but you could make this year-round with whatever's in season. Potatoes, chickpeas, spinach, butternut squash, zoodles, green beans, and green peas would be divine!
Plus, although not at all traditional, if you like meat, you could easily throw in some browned ground beef, turkey, chicken, pork, sausage, or even shredded beef or chicken. There's truly no wrong way to make this vegetable soup!
Key Ingredients for Homemade Minestrone Soup
- Bacon (or pancetta): Six sliced diced add a ton of rich, pork flavor to the soup and give the vegetables something flavorful to sauté in before adding the liquid components. This is a crucial step in building flavors for your homemade minestrone. You can also use cubed pancetta.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: To prevent the bacon and veggies from burning. Also a vital component to any Italian dish!
- Diced Veggies: In total you'll use one medium onion, two stalks celery , a half of a cup of carrots , and one medium sized zucchini. You'll also use two cloves of smashed and finely chopped garlic, as well as a half of a small head of cabbage or 6 cups spinach , shredded. (I used Savoy cabbage)
- Beans: Minestrone wouldn't be complete without cannelloni beans or white navy beans, if you prefer. The use of white beans is traditional.
- Tomatoes: You'll use one 15-oz can of can tomato sauce and one 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes (San Marzano or Muir Glen preferred).
- Chicken Broth: As always, homemade is best (and easy to make!), but store-bought is fine if you're out or in a pinch. Just opt for low-sodium so you can better control the amount of salt in your vegetable soup.
- Salt and Pepper: To taste.
- Fresh Basil: One handful chopped, for garnish.
- To serve:
You can also add rice or pasta like orzo Ditalini, if you prefer.
How to Add Flavor to Minestrone Soup
The use of bacon or pancetta really adds a nice smokey flavor to this soup, so I wouldn't recommend skipping this part (if you are avoiding meat, you can try a vegan bacon or just a touch of liquid smoke).
In addition to the bacon, the use of high quality grated parmesan (ie, not the stuff that doesn't require refrigeration) really makes this soup amazing! You can also add a little pesto, if you're a fan of it (just a touch!).
Homemade chicken broth or vegetable broth is also something that improves the flavor of soups tremendously (and taste to make sure it's salted well.
And so, consider using homemade broth, bacon (or vegan bacon), parmesan cheese, and/or a tiny bit of pesto to really improve the flavor of your minestrone!
How To Make Homemade Minestrone from Scratch
- Sauté diced bacon in a deep sauté pan or Dutch oven for 2 to 3 minutes until the pieces begin to cook. Then drain fat, and set aside.
- Next, add olive oil, onion, celery, and carrots to the pan with the cooked bacon, and continue to cook until vegetables soften slightly, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add garlic, zucchini, and cabbage or spinach, and continue cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Then, add beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and basil. Raise heat, and bring to a boil.
- Immediately reduce heat, and and allow the soup to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
- When finished cooking, season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish as desired, for stand out flavor, with good quality parmesan cheese and pesto thinned with olive oil. And enjoy!
Soup will thicken over time if storing or preparing in advance, so keep that in mind; especially when reheating. It may need to be thinned out with a bit of water or stock.
What To Serve with This Vegetable Soup
- Garlic Knots
- 5-Minute Bread
- Flax and Chia Seed Sourdough
- 5-Grain Bread
- Tartine Bread
- Dinner Rolls
- Philly Roast Pork Sandwich
- Turkey Burger
Storage, Freezing, and Reheating Instructions
- To Store: Allow minestrone to cool completely, then place it in an airtight container or plastic bag and store in your refrigerator for up to three days.
- To Freeze: Place completely cooled minestrone in an airtight, freezer-safe container or plastic bag, then place in your freezer and store for up to three months.
- To Reheat: Allow frozen minestrone to thaw in the fridge overnight. Then, place chilled vegetable soup in a pot on the stove and slowly warm to desired temperature on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. You can also microwave at 30-second intervals until warmed through. You may need to thin out with some water or stock if it's too thick after being chilled.
How To Make This Minestrone in the Slow Cooker and Instant Pot
Like most stovetop soups, this minestrone recipe can indeed be made in the slow cooker and/or Instant Pot. Just follow these instructions:
- To Make Slow Cooker Minestrone: Follow steps 1-3 above for sautéing bacon and vegetables in a skillet on your stovetop. Then, add those and remaining ingredients to your slow cooker or Crock Pot and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 to 7 hours. Serve as desired.
- To Make Instant Pot Minestrone: Set your Instant Pot to sauté, and prepare bacon and vegetables as instructed above in the insert. Then, add remaining ingredients and switch your Instant Pot to manual and cook for 12 minutes followed by natural release . Serve as desired.
More Recipes To Try
If you enjoyed this homemade minestrone (aka vegetable soup), then you'll love these other soup and stew recipes:
- Red Wine Beef Stew
- Beef and Barley Soup
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Creamy Tomato Soup
- Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
- Mushroom Barley Soup
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- 6 slices bacon
- 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion , diced
- 2 stalks celery , diced
- ½ cup carrots , diced
- 2 cloves garlic , smashed and finely chopped
- 1 medium sized zucchini , diced
- ½ small head or cabbage or 6 cups spinach , shredded (I used Savoy cabbage) (see NOTE 1)
- 3 cans cannelloni beans (or white navy beans) (15.5 oz cans) (see NOTE 2)
- 1 can tomato sauce (15 oz cans) (San Marzano or Muir Glen preferred) (see NOTE 3)
- 1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz cans) (San Marzano or Muir Glen preferred)
- 32 oz chicken broth (about 4 cups)
- salt and pepper to taste
- basil , handful chopped
- parmesan cheese (see NOTE 4 and NOTE 5)
- Chop bacon into small pieces and heat over medium-high heat in a deep saute pan for 2 to 3 minutes until the pieces begin to cook, drain fat (can also use saute function on Instant pot)
- Add olive oil, onion, celery, and carrots to pan and continue to cook until vegetables soften slightly, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add garlic, zucchini, and cabbage or spinach and continue cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and basil. Raise heat and bring to a boil.
- Immediately reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
- When finished cooking, season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with pesto thinned with olive oil and grated cheese.
- Soup will thicken over time if storing or preparing in advance
- May be cooked on stove top (as instructed above), Instant Pot (after sautéing vegetables [steps 1 and 2] use manual pressure for 12 minutes to cook soup, then quick release), or using crockpot (high for 3 hours or low for 6 to 7 hours). If using crockpot, recommendation is to saute bacon and vegetables from step 1 and 2 on stove top.