I have been so excited to share my Minestrone Soup recipe with you all. It is a fast and healthy version made with vegetables, beans, zucchini and fresh basil. It can be made vegan or gluten-free if desired. It’s high in fiber and only 111 calories per cup, but it is surprisingly filling! Also, it can be frozen too!
I have updated this post and republished it today. I originally shared it on September 7th, 2018.
Why We Love This Minestrone Soup Recipe
No question, soup is one of my favorite things to cook. Specifically, I love making vegetable soup. I love chopping everything and layering the ingredients into the pot to cook them sequentially to maximize the flavors. It is so satisfying and something I relish when the weather goes from summer to fall.
This being the case, perfecting homemade Minestrone was a seemingly straightforward task. But not so, because a lot of Minestrone soup recipes fall flat on flavor. They have that “too healthy” or “low fat” taste of the ’90s low fat era.
If you’ve been to Italy and had authentic Minestrone soup, then you know that real deal Italian Minestrone is neither flat nor low fat tasting! It is usually full of body and flavor from tomatoes, herbs, really good olive oil. It’s often cooked with the rind of the Parmesan right in it.
Some Italian variations are also cooked with parts of the pork in the broth, that don’t actually add any chunks of meat to the soup, but they add lots of velvety mouthfeel.
So I set out to create an easy home cook version of Minestrone with the slow-cooked Italian version in my mind’s eye. Here’s what I came up with.
I like to use macaroni, but another small pasta shape (like mini shells) works fine too. If you are following a gluten-free diet, use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
To cook the veggies and for drizzling at the end you’ll want olive oil. While the cooked oil will not add too much flavor, the finishing oil will. That is why I recommend a good quality extra-virgin olive oil for finishing this dish. If you happen to have two different in your kitchen, use the less expensive olive oil for cooking and then use the nicer reserved oil for topping the soup at the end.
- Onion: Read how to dice an onion here.
- Garlic: A must! Freshly chopped is best.
- Carrots: Peel and chop the carrots to about the same size as the onion and celery.
- Celery: Cut into small pieces so that it will become tender in a shorter time.
- Zucchini: to bulk up the veggies more I also added in diced zucchini. If you prefer you can use green beans instead.
This is a dry seasoning blend found in large supermarkets. It has a nice balance of herbs that wake up beautifully in the soup.
I use table salt here. If you prefer to use coarse kosher salt, read this info about substituting. If you are on a low-sodium diet, simply omit the salt and use a low-sodium broth. Then just add salt and pepper to taste at the very end if you feel you need it.
Dry white wine
To bring out the flavors and add acidity to the soup, I use dry white wine. Look for one without a lot of oak or residual sugar. I like Italian whites for this such as Orvieto or Pinot Grigio.
My favorite brand of veggie broth is Imagine No Chicken. It tastes amazing and is not bitter or dark. You can also sub in chicken broth or homemade stock.
Canned whole peeled tomatoes
The tomatoes help by adding acidity to the soup. They also are yet another veggie to add in. Look for whole Italian-style plum tomatoes.
Red kidney beans
Look for no salt added if you are on a reduced-sodium diet. Make sure to drain and rinse the beans. If you prefer white beans look for cannellini beans instead which are white kidney beans.
To add fresh and bright herb flavor at the end I also add in fresh basil. This makes a big flavor pop. Do not sub in dried. If you do not have it you can skip it.
Grated Parmesan cheese
This recipe is vegan, but if you eat cheese, I love the way a bit of Parmesan tastes on top. Freshly grate if you can for the best flavor and texture.
Step By Step Instructions For This Minestrone Recipe
Step 1: Cook the pasta separately
This is the one and only sure-fire way of making sure your pasta is cooked but not overcooked. Trying to time softening the vegetables in a quick Minestrone is tricky if the pasta is in the pot at the same time. Cooking the pasta in another pot on the stovetop eliminates the guesswork. Check your package for proper cooking time and follow the instructions to boil the pasta.
Step 2: Cook the onion and garlic first
Do this to get a little caramelization (that means the natural sugars have started browning).
Step 3: Add the carrots, celery and dry herbs
After the onions brown, add the carrots and celery which will contribute moisture and slow the browning process. You will also want to add the dry herbs which will help bloom them so they will be more flavorful.
If you like to add meat to your minestrone, you can add 8 ounces of Italian sausage to the pot with the veggies. Remove the casings and crumble it with the spoon as it browns.
Look for fond in the bottom of the pot. Fond is the tasty browned bits that stick to the pan. Fond is your one-way ticket to Flavortown. You want that! I do the same thing in my Ratatouille recipe and it makes such a difference! You don’t want to burn the pot, so don’t let it go too dark. Burning is bitter.
Step 4: Deglaze with white wine
White wine is acidic which is important because it and helps to draw up the fond (aka your one-way ticket to Flavortown.) Acidity also helps to brighten and balance the other flavors in the Minestrone. Wine as an ingredient also helps our taste buds perceive flavor.
Step 5: Add vegetable broth and zucchini
My favorite vegetable broth is Imagine “No Chicken.” Of course, making your own stock is always a great idea, just make sure to peel your vegetables- peels are bitter and are for compost and chickens, not for stock. If you do make your own vegetable or chicken stock, increase the added salt by 1/2 teaspoon to compensate.
Wait and add the zucchini with the broth because the other veggies have had a head start already.
The zucchini on the other hand not only cooks quickly but it won’t caramelize in the first place so there is no point in sautéing it with the onions etc. That’s because it has a very high water content, and to caramelize it you need a much dryer and hotter environment- like a pretty empty hot skillet with oil or a hot oven with oil or a grill with oil.
Step 6: Crush the canned tomatoes by hand
I know this seems like extra work, but I like to crush them by hand into the soup. I love the rustic, irregular texture. Look for those with the label that says San Marzano. Use the tomato sauce from the can too. That gives the soup body.
Step 7: Add beans and pasta at the end
Wait to add the beans and pasta into the soup and just heat it through. That will ensure the pasta doesn’t become overcooked and the beans will not break down.
Step 8: Stir in the basil
Add the basil after the Minestrone soup comes off the heat. Fresh basil has volatile compounds our noses pick up, but they evaporate quickly when heated. So stirring the basil in at the end will keep as much fresh basil flavor for serving.
Once you ladle the minestrone soup into bowls, top it with a drizzle of more (good) Italian extra-virgin olive oil. It’s delicious and you can really taste the olive oil when it hasn’t been cooked. I add on Parmesan cheese too- but if you’re vegan you can skip it.
Expert Tips and FAQs For This Recipe
This recipe is very versatile so if you do not have one or more of the ingredients, feel free to use something you have on hand. For example, you can use green beans instead of zucchini. You can also make this recipe gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta.
Start with a good soup pot
I particularly love my heavy enameled cast iron pot for making soup. It has a wide bottom, so I can brown the vegetables quickly and they don’t over-crowd and steam. The thickness of the bottom is important because it will prevent the food from burning.
Make Ahead Tips
Soups are one of the best make-ahead meals out there! I will often make a big pot on the weekend with the express purpose of having it for lunches for the week. This Minestrone soup can be made ahead up to 5 days in advance.
How to Reheat Minestrone on the Stovetop
- To rewarm, bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat stirring occasionally.
- Do not simmer for too long as this will overcook the pasta and zucchini and dull the flavor of the basil.
- For best flavor, leave the basil out until it is re-warmed. If the flavors seem dull, feel free to add salt and pepper to taste.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Yes, this Minestrone can be frozen up to three months. Here’s how:
- Divide into containers with convenient number of servings.
- Cool completely in the fridge before covering tightly and freezing.
- Freeze for up to three months.
- To thaw, transfer the container to the refrigerator and thaw at least 24 hours.
- Or reheat from frozen in the microwave, breaking up ice as it thaws every 4 minutes or so.
At only 111 calories and 4 grams of fiber per cup, this minestrone is filling but relatively low in calories. This soup is also high in vegetables and research shows that high intakes of vegetables can be associated with reduced risk of weight gain and lower rates of chronic disease.
Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter for healthy recipes delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie
A quick and healthy Minestrone soup recipe can be made vegan and gluten-free if desired with zucchini and basil. Only 111 calories per cup.
- 1 cup uncooked macaroni, gluten-free if desired
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
- 3 cups diced onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 1 small zucchini, diced
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably Italian plum tomatoes
- 1 14-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- Grated Parmesan cheese for serving, optional
- Cook Pasta: Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package instructions. Drain.
- Sauté The Vegetables: Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often until the onion is starting to brown slightly, about 3 minutes. Add in in carrots, celery, Italian seasoning and salt, and stir to combine. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened and the pan has a little fond along the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Make The Soup: Pour in wine and cook, stirring until most of the wine is evaporated, 1 to 3 minutes. Add in broth and zucchini, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Crush tomatoes into the soup and add any tomato sauce from the can. Stir in beans and the cooked macaroni and cook, stirring often until heated through, about 4 minutes.
- To Finish and Serve: Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Serve in bowls topped with Parmesan and additional olive oil if desired.
Notes: Fond is the golden brown tasty crusty bits found on the bottom of the pot once the liquid in the veggies has cooked out. Fond is very flavorful so it is important to develop the fond in step 2 to maximize flavor of the Minestrone.
This soup can be made ahead up to 5 days in advance. To rewarm, bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat stirring occasionally. Do not simmer for too long as this will overcook the pasta and zucchini and dull the flavor of the basil. For best flavor, leave the basil out until it is re-warmed.
Minestrone can be frozen up to three months. Divide into containers with convenient number of servings and cool completely in the fridge before covering tightly and freezing. To thaw, transfer the container to the refrigerator and thaw at least 24 hours. Or reheat from frozen in the microwave, breaking up ice as it thaws every 4 minutes or so.
Nutrition information is without garnishes.
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 111
- Sugar: 6
- Fat: 2
- Carbohydrates: 18 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Protein: 3 g
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