Find out how to make the best minestrone, an Italian bean and tomato soup, with just common ingredients found in your kitchen pantry and refrigerator!
I’ve shared my go-to recipe for Summer minestrone here on my blog before. But what’s great about minestrone soup is that you can basically make it with simple pantry ingredients and it’s infinitely variable. It’s the ultimate pantry-staple recipe that works with fresh veggies, frozen veggies or vegetables that have been lingering in the back of your fridge that need to be used up. I teamed up with Safeway to show you how to make minestrone recipe using basic pantry ingredients, as well as how to take it to the next level if you’re making a trip Safeway and want to up your game a bit for this soup!
This post was sponsored by Safeway. I was compensated for this post and for developing the recipe. However, all opinions below are completely my own. You can get all the products featured in this recipe at your local Safeway!
What is minestrone soup?
Minestrone soup is a thick vegetable tomato based Italian soup that often has beans and leafy greens in it. Though there are recipes that claim to be “authentic” there’s no real set recipe for minestrone soup. If you ask 10 Italian grandmas for their minestrone soup recipe, you’ll get 10 different recipes, all of them claiming that their recipe is the authentic version.
But the most common minestrone soup recipes have some form of tomato in it, along with beans and/or pasta as well as vegetables and greens like kale, chard, spinach or leafy cabbage.
How do you make this soup?
I start out making this soup by cooking a few slices of bacon in a large stock pot. Then I saute aromatics like minced garlic and chopped onions.
Once the aromatics are cooked, I add in a few dried spices (oregano and thyme) and then the chicken stock, diced tomatoes, and a can of beans. The beans break down a bit when you add them this early and help thicken the soup. Once everything has come to a boil, I add in a bag of frozen vegetables and bring the soup back to a boil.
Once the soup is simmering, I stir a handful of chopped kale leaves and another can of beans. Because I’m fancy, I garnish the soup with some slivered basil and shavings of parmesan cheese and serve with slabs of bread. All told, the soup is ready in less than 30 minutes!
Can you make this vegetarian or vegan?
You can make it vegetarian/vegan by omitting the bacon in the beginning and just using 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil.
Be sure to replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock as well.
Can you add increase the protein in this?
Yes! Instead of using the two slices of bacon, try adding in some meat. Here are few suggestions
- 1/4 pound pancetta
- 1/4 pound diced ham
- 1/2 pound ground beef, broken up and browned before adding aromatics
- 1/2 pound ground pork, broken up and browned before adding aromatics
- 1/2 pound Italian sausage, removed from casing, broken up and browned before adding aromatics
- 1/2 pound cubed boneless chicken, sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until cooked through
- 1/2 pound cubed boneless pork chops, sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until cooked through
What sort of beans can use?
You can use any beans that you like! I use two different beans in this soup, a white bean (cannellini) and a darker bean (pinto). But choose the bean that you have on hand or that you like to eat. Safeway even has a canned O Organic tri-bean blend of pinto, kidney and black bean that would be great for this soup.
I opt to use canned beans here, which makes this recipe super easy. But feel free to use dry beans that you’ve cooked ahead of time if you prefer.
A few types of beans that would be great for this soup:
- Cannellini beans, a classic smooth white bean with a slightly nutty taste that is often used in minestrone
- Pinto beans, an earthy cream bean that is often used in Mexican food
- Garbanzo beans, a larger round bean that has a nice bite
- Kidney beans, a large red bean that is popular in chili and soup
- Black beans, a dark creamy bean with a slightly sweet profile
- Great Northern beans, a large soft, mild bean
How do I add pasta to this soup?
A lot of minestrone recipes use pasta in their soup. This “stretches” the soup into even larger serving portions. Choose a pasta shape that is easy to spoon up, like elbow macaroni, bow tie, egg noodles, orecchiette, rotini, penne, rotini or small shells. Avoid longer pastas like spaghetti or fettuccine, or break them up into 2-inch long pieces before adding them in.
You can add the pasta to the soup directly at the very end, and then simmer the soup until the pasta is cooked al dente.
But if you expect on having leftovers, pasta that is cooked directly in the soup will continue to absorb liquid and get soggy. I like to cook my pasta separately, in salty boiling water, then add pasta to individual bowls as I serve. That way any leftover pasta can be stored separatedly and added to leftovers.
How do I substitute fresh vegetables for frozen vegetables in this soup?
I use a 1 pound package of O Organic Garden Blend vegetables, which include broccoli, carrots, corn, and soybeans in it. I like the convenience of using the mix of frozen vegetables, meaning I can use make this soup in less than 30 minutes. Feel free to use any blend of frozen vegetables that you might have on hand. You need roughly 3 cups of frozen vegetables.
But if you feel like using fresh vegetables, you can definitely do that as well! Again, use about 3 cups of any vegetable combination. Common vegetables found in minestrone include:
- Carrots. Chop into 1/2-inch cubes or 1-inch sticks and cook with the aromatics until soft
- Celery. Slice into 1/2-inch pieces and cook with the aromatics
- Green beans. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Add when you add the chicken stock and simmer until cooked to desired tenderness
- Zucchini. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes or 1-inch sticks and cook with the aromatics
- Broccoli. Cut into bite-size florets and add in the end. Simmer the soup until cooked to the tenderness desired.
- Cauliflower. Cut into bite size florets and add in the end. Simmer soup until cooked to the tenderness desired.
- Savoy cabbage. Use this instead of the kale or in addition to the kale! Add it in the end to wilt it.
- Spinach. Use this instead of the kale or in addition to the kale. Add it in the end to wilt it.
- Swiss or rainbow chard. Add the chopped stems in the beginning of the cooking with the onions and aromatics. Add the chopped leaves at the end of the cooking to wilt them.
Up your game with these add ons!
You can easily take this soup to the next level with a few various add-ins. Here’s some suggestions (I only recommend doing one or two of these, not all of them!):
- Parmesan rind. If you buy whole parmesan wedges (and I recommend that you do) save the rinds in the freezer. Then add a rind when you add the chicken stock. The soup will be infused with an extra cheesy umami
- Tomato paste. If you have a can of partially used tomato paste, or a tube of double concentrate tomato paste, add a tablespoon or two to the soup, to give it an extra boost of tomato savoriness.
- Asian fish sauce. It sounds unorthodox, but Asian fish sauce will add an underlying umami boost to the soup. It’s my secret weapon for my not bolognese sauce, and no you won’t taste it! Just 1 teaspoon of the stuff layers in some extra oomph to the soup!
- Fresh basil. Chop or slice up some fresh basil leaves to add to the top of the soup for a brightness that you can’t get with dried herbs
- Parmesan shavings or gratings. Take a peeler or grater to a wedge of parmesan and sprinkle some fresh cheese over the top of the soup before serving.
- Pesto. Storebought or homemade pesto drizzled over the individual portioned soup before serving gives an extra dimension and makes the soup look restaurant quality!
How do I store this soup?
Like most soups, this soup actually improves with age! Store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. You’ll notice the soup will thicken as the beans and other starches from the vegetables break down a bit. Just thin the soup with some extra stock or broth as you heat it up. Or enjoy the thickened soup as is.
You can also freeze leftovers! This soup makes a lot, and if you want to freeze half the batch to enjoy for another time. My favorite way to freeze it is to ladle the soup into heavy-duty freezer Ziploc quart bags. Seal them tight, freeze them flat, then store them upright and vertical for easy storage.
What do I serve with minestrone?
A small serving of minestrone is a great appetizer or first course in a meal, but it’s hearty enough for a main course as well! Here’s a few suggestions to serve with the soup.
- Homemade beer bread
- A green salad
- Soft potato rolls
- Parker house rolls
- Slabs of thick crusty bread
If you like this minestrone soup, check out a few other soup recipes on my blog:
- Leek and Bean Soup
- Chicken Florentine Soup
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Manhattan Clam Chowder
- Summer Minestrone Soup
- 2 slices thick bacon chopped
- 4 medium cloves garlic minced, about 2 tablespoons
- 2 medium onions chopped, about 2 cups
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 15 ounces canned Cannellini beans or Great Northern beans
- 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 32 ounces chicken broth or chicken stock, 4 cups
- 3 cups frozen mixed vegetables 1 pound, like O Organic Garden Blend
- 15 ounces canned Pinto beans or Red Kidney beans
- 1 bunch Lacinato kale sometimes called Tuscan or Dinosaur kale, stem removed and leaves chopped
- Chopped or sliced basil leaves optional
- Shaved Parmesan cheese optional
- Thick crusty bread
- Place the chopped bacon in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the bacon starts to crisp and the fat has been rendered. Add the garlic and onions. Cook until the onions soften and start to turn translucent. Sprinkle in the dried herbs, salt and pepper.
- Add the chicken broth, Cannellini beans and diced tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil.
- Add the frozen vegetables and bring to a boil. Stir in the second can of beans and the kale. Let simmer for 1 minutes until the kale has wilted, cooking longer if you want the kale softer and more silky.
- Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with basil and Parmesan.