Minestrone soup is of Italian origin and contains plenty of vegetables. The recipe is interchangeable and varies depending on the seasonal ingredients used. As a result, this recipe can be inexpensive to prepare and make it a low-cost dish. Every region in Italy has its own version of this hearty soup. Some regions add pasta, or beans, and others serve it with pesto and Parmesan cheese.
This classic minestrone, also called Italian wedding soup, is very filling and often served as a meal with bread. The term wedding soup comes from the Italian language phrase minestra maritata or ‘married soup’, which refers to the flavours produced by the combination or ‘marriage’ of all ingredients.
Minestrone can be vegetarian, but our version is prepared with chicken stock, pancetta as well as borlotti beans, pasta, and a rainbow of vegetables. We like to use canned beans to reduce the cooking time. Tomatoes are essential, but it is a personal choice as to the other seasonal vegetables added, so long as there are plenty. In this recipe we use vegetables that are available all year round. The finishing addition is always a few shavings of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, but when making a Minestrone there is room to improvise, and you can customise your own version without upsetting your Italian friends.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the list of ingredients, most are readily available in your pantry and the rest are vegetables.
How to substitute ingredients for a minestrone soup
- Use canned tomatoes if fresh ones are not available.
- Long green beans can be replaced with Kenya beans.
- Kale or cabbage are good substitutes for spinach.
- Fennel can be added or it can replace the celery.
- Crack spaghetti in small pieces if orzo is not available.
- You can cook your own beans and use some of the cooking liquid for the soup. The cooking time will be longer than if using canned beans.
Classic Minestrone Soup
- 600 gr carrots
- 300 gr yellow onions
- 400 gr celery
- 5-6 pcs garlic cloves
- 250 gr turnips
- 400 gr courgettes
- 400 gr potatoes
- 100 gr green beans
- 400 gr canned cannellini or borlotti beans
- 800 gr green peas fresh
- 1 kg tomatoes
- 150 gr fresh spinach
- 100 gr orzo pasta or penne or elbow macaroni
- 3 L chicken stock
- 1 tbsp tomato paste optional
- 60 ml olive oil
- ½ tsp dried oregano or thyme
- 1 pc bouquet garni
- ½ lemon juice
- 150 gr diced pancetta
- 1 small jar of homemade pesto
- Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Peel the tomatoes.
- Peel and cut into cubes, keep on the side.
- Blend the tomato seeds, the skin with tomato paste and 500 ml water to make a juice.
- Strain the tomato juice and keep aside.
Make the soup
- Drain and wash the canned beans. Wash, peel, and dice all vegetables.
- Boil the green beans and green peas in salted water until soft.
- When the greens are cooked, use the same water to boil the pasta al dente.
- In a large soup pot, cook the pancetta in a small amount of olive oil until crispy.
- Add the onions and carrots and cook for 3 minutes until slightly soft.
- Add the celery, turnip, garlic and oregano, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Pour in the chicken stock, tomato juice with the bouquet garni, a pinch of dried chili and bring to the boil.
- Add the potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes and cook until all vegetables are soft.
- Add the diced tomatoes, borlotti beans, spinach and courgette and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the drained pasta and the cooked greens into the soup.
- Remove the bouquet garni and season the soup to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
- Serve the Minestrone soup piping hot with pesto sauce and grated cheese.