Easy Minestrone Soup

October 5, 2020

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Our favorite Minestrone Soup recipe! It’s brimming with fresh vegetables, a savory broth, and you get an enticing flavor boost from a bit of pancetta. A simple soup that’s just what you need after a long chilly day.

Image of serving of minestrone soup in a white bowl set over white plate. Soup is garnished with parmesan and topped with bread.

Quick and Easy Minestrone Soup

Minestrone is a healthy, vegetable based soup that often includes beans, pasta, herbs and broth. Here we skip the pasta but we’ve upgraded it with pancetta, a rich and flavorful Italian style pork that’s similar to bacon.

Without it minestrone can be a bit bland and boring, it offers this soup a little something extra that will leave everyone wanting more. And a little will go a long way, you just want that depth of flavor not an overpowering flavor.

The other thing you’ll love about this soup is that you only need one herb, not an entire list. Rosemary perfectly compliments all the flavors here. But stick with fresh to really highlight the soup.

Pot full of minestrone soup shown from the side.

Minestrone Soup Ingredients and Substitutes

  • Pancetta: Look for this at the deli counter (I use Boar’s Head brand). Ask for it thick cut. Bacon could be substituted, just saute a little longer until it starts to get crisp.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Standard refined olive oil will work too it’s just not quite as flavorful.
  • Yellow onion: Red or white onions could be substituted in a pinch.
  • Carrots: Parsnips could be substituted.
  • Celery: Slice thin so they cook faster. Swap with fennel stalks if needed.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic is preferred, second best is bottled garlic. I don’t recommend dried garlic here.
  • Canned diced tomatoes: I like to use petite cut but standard cut if fine. 3 fresh Roma tomatoes, diced could be substituted.
  • Low-sodium chicken broth: Vegetable broth works great too.
  • Zucchini: You can use another vegetable here if you’ve got something else. Yellow squash is a similar alternative.
  • Rosemary: Go with fresh for best flavor. Another option would be to use another fresh Italian herb like basil, marjoram, oregano, parsley or thyme (or use a blend).
  • Parmesan + rind: You’ll need about a 4 inch by 1-inch parmesan rind, just a small piece. It adds lots of flavor, always save these for soups and sauces.
  • Spinach: Cabbage or kale are great alternatives, though you’ll want to add them along with the zucchini since they take longer to cook to a tender bite.
  • Kidney beans: I usually use dark red kidney beans but light red or white (cannellini beans) work great too. You could even use something like great northern beans if that’s what you have.
  • Red pepper flakes: If you don’t like heat omit this ingredient. A little cayenne pepper will achieve the same result if that’s whats in your cupboard.
  • Salt and pepper: Add to taste, but be mindful you’ll get salt from the canned ingredients and plenty from the parmesan and pancetta. You shouldn’t need to add much.
    Image of ingredients used to make Minestrone soup. Shows celery, carrots, rosemary, zucchini, parmesan, kidney beans, yellow onion, spinach, chicken broth, garlic, pancetta, olive oil, canned tomatoes, salt and pepper.

How to Make Minestrone Soup

  1. Saute pancetta: Heat pancetta with olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Cook until just lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
  2. Saute mire pox: Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until starting to soften, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.
  3. Add liquids and select ingredients: Pour in broth and water, tomatoes, zucchini, rosemary, and parmesan rind. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  4. Simmer until tender: Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring once halfway through, about 10 minutes total or until zucchini is tender.
  5. Season: Remove rosemary and parmesan rind. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Add beans and spinach: Stir in kidney beans and spinach and let heat through, about 30 seconds.
  7. Thin if desired: For a brothier soup you can add in a little more broth to thin as desired.
  8. Garnish: Serve warm with parmesan and red pepper flakes if desired.

Collage of eight images showing steps to make minestrone soup in a pot on the stovetop.

Can it be made vegan?

  • Yes. If you want a vegan or vegetarian minestrone then omit the pancetta.
  • Use a vegan parmesan instead.

Can it be frozen?

  • Yes. This soup freezes really well for 3 months in an airtight container (leave 1/2-inch unfilled space at the top for expansion).
  • Thaw overnight in the fridge.
  • Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop in a pot.

Can I make it in the slow cooker?

I have a Slow Cooker Minestrone recipe here (it’s an Olive Garden Copycat recipe). You can upgrade that one with pancetta as well!

Image of ladle filled with minestrone soup shown close up.

Tips and Variations for the Best Minestrone

  • Use a variety of vegetables and feel free to trade some of those here for others you have on hand.
  • Opt for fresh or even frozen veggies instead of canned (except the tomatoes, those are fine canned).
  • Cook long enough to achieve a tender result. No one wants to bite into crunchy celery in their soup.
  • For extra flavor don’t omit the pancetta and parmesan rind. These secret ingredients really make the soup shine.
  • Wait to add spinach until the end so it doesn’t get mushy and slimy.

Best Vegetables to Use

Make your own blend! Here’s a list of good vegetable (technically some fruit) options for minestrone. Keep in mind root or tough vegetables will need about twice as long (20 minutes) to cook vs. softer vegetables.

  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • butternut squash
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • fennel
  • eggplant
  • green beans
  • kale
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • parsnips
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • yellow squash
  • zucchini

Overhead images of two servings of minestrone soup in white bowls set over a marble surface.

More Delicious Italian Style Soup Recipes to Try

Image of serving of minestrone soup in a white bowl set over white plate. Soup is garnished with parmesan and topped with bread.
5 from 2 votes

Minestrone Soup

Our favorite Minestrone Soup recipe! It's brimming with fresh vegetables, a savory broth, and you get an exciting flavor boost from a bit of pancetta. A quick and simple soup that's just what you need after a long chilly day.
Makes approximately 8 cups.
Servings: 5
Prep15 minutes
Cook30 minutes
Ready in: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. pancetta*, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 medium)
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrot (1 large)
  • 3/4 cup thin sliced celery (2 ribs)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup water or more broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 small parmesan rind (about 4-inches), plus shredded parmesan for serving
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (2 oz) fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can dark red kidney beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)

Instructions

  • Heat pancetta with olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Cook until just lightly browned, about 4 - 5 minutes.
  • Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until starting to soften, about 7 minutes.
  • Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.
  • Pour in broth, water, tomatoes, and add zucchini, rosemary, and parmesan rind.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring once halfway through, about 10 minutes total or until zucchini is tender.
  • Remove rosemary and parmesan rind. Season to taste with salt and pepper (you shouldn't need much salt, it's already fairly salty).
  • Stir in kidney beans and spinach and let heat through, about 30 seconds. For a brothier soup you can add in a little more broth to thin as desired.
  • Serve warm with shredded parmesan and red pepper flakes if desired.

Notes

*This is an Italian pork. I buy it at the deli counter, Boar's Head brand is a good option. Ask for it thick cut, about 1/4-inch thick.
Try it with other vegetables you may have on hand, minestrone is so versatile. Here are some good options (add more broth to thin and more fresh herbs to season as desired): 
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • butternut squash
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • eggplant
  • fennel
  • green beans
  • kale
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • parsnips
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • yellow squash
  • zucchini

Other Herbs to Try

  • Basil
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
Nutrition Facts
Minestrone Soup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 341 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Fat 18g28%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Cholesterol 21mg7%
Sodium 976mg42%
Potassium 1011mg29%
Carbohydrates 30g10%
Fiber 8g33%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 15g30%
Vitamin A 4629IU93%
Vitamin C 23mg28%
Calcium 209mg21%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.