This post has been updated for content, photographs and recipe since its original publication in 2015.
If you love hearty vegetable soup, this easy vegetable minestrone should be on your TO-DO list. This naturally vegetarian minestrone soup is chock full of fresh and canned vegetables as well as whole grains and just a skosh of mini pasta. You can use whatever veg you have on hand, but this Italian soup requires beans — we like canned kidney beans for this healthy minestrone soup and it’s even better finished with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Don’t you just love a hearty vegetable soup? One with layers of textures, flavors and colors? Something quick and easy to make, but warm and satisfying. This vegetable minestrone is a classic Italian soup that’s meant to be fiddled with according to your tastes — and what you have in the refrigerator. That kind of flexibility is infinitely appealing to me, and I’m sure to you as well.
Ingredients For Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
- Fennel Seed
- Dried Basil
- Dried Oregano
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Bay Leaves
- Vegetable Broth
- Canned Kidney Beans
- Crushed Tomatoes
- Diced Tomatoes
- Red Skinned Potatoes
- Green Beans
- Small Pasta
- Curly Leaf Kale
Starting with a mirepoix of onions, carrots, celery and garlic, this hearty vegetable soup might look like any other, but the thing that sets it apart are the meaty kidney beans, two types of tomatoes and small diced potatoes. Oh, and the herb blend. That’s crucial.
Many vegetarian minestrone soups lag in the seasonings. You can only get so much excitement from vegetables and broth, right? However, adding an herb-centric blend of spice harmonizes the rest of the soup and will keep you coming back for more… promise.
Herb Blend For Vegetable Minestrone
- Dried Oregano
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Dried Basil
- Bay Leaves
- Crushed Fennel Seed
The oregano, basil and bay leaves are no brainers for this Italian soup, but the crushed red pepper flakes and fennel seed are my two secret ingredients.
Fennel seed adds a subtle anise flavor that’s more pronounced if you crush the seeds first. I use a mortar and pestle, but you could also put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a few spins of a rolling pin. Just enough to release the flavors.
Crushed red pepper adds zing to this healthy minestrone soup and you can adjust the heat to your tastes. I prefer a little more tingle, so I usually add 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper, but if you have sensitive palates in your midst, start with 1/4 teaspoon and adjust as needed.
Pantry Items For Healthy Minestrone Soup
- Canned Kidney Beans (and their broth)
- Vegetable Stock (can substitute chicken stock)
- Canned Diced Tomatoes (I like the petite dice)
- Canned Crushed Tomatoes
- Quinoa (just a little bit adds texture and protein — be careful not to overdo it)
- Small Pasta (any small pasta will do, but I recommend REALLY TINY ONES like pastina, orzo, ditalini, or alphabets)
- Cannellini Beans
- Navy Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Rind of Parmesan Cheese (adds richness and depth to the broth – remove before serving)
Fresh Veg For Healthy Italian Soup
- Fresh Green Beans
- Summer Squash
- Butternut Squash
- Roasted Red Peppers
- Peas (Frozen)
- Corn (Frozen
- Lima Beans (Frozen)
It’s important to chop the vegetables to roughly the same size (between 1/2″ to 1″), that way they’ll cook in roughly the same amount of time as well as fit on the spoon and in your mouth.
Timing of Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
To avoid too crunchy or too soft vegetables, when adding them to the soup, it’s important to think about how long it will take for each component to cook and plan accordingly. I think this is where most people struggle, not having a sense for how long it takes vegetables and grains to cook and either over or under-estimating. Cutting the veg to roughly the same size will help, of course, but adding the ingredients in the right order, also makes a difference.
The Order Is Important
For this vegetarian minestrone soup, I add the green beans, potatoes and quinoa at the same time because the potatoes and quinoa will take roughly the same time. While I usually like a snappy, crisp green bean to eat on the side of my plate, in a soup, they should be a little more tender.
When those vegetables are about 5 minutes from being “done,” that’s when I stir in the kale and mini pasta, which gives the kale time to wilt and the small pasta time to absorb some liquid.
If you’re using hearty grains like farro or pearl barley – which take longer to cook and absorb more liquid, I recommend cooking them separately in another pot and adding it to the hearty vegetable soup at the end of cooking. (Note: Instant or Quick Cooking Barley can be added directly to the broth).
Healthy minestrone soup is thick, chunky and redolent with colors, textures and savory flavors. This is the hearty vegetable soup other soups WANT TO BE. We enjoy it with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, but if you want to keep it vegan, skip the cheese.
How Long Will Hearty Vegetable Minestrone Last?
This soup will last about 5-7 days, covered in the refrigerator.
Can I Meal Prep Healthy Minestrone Soup?
Yes. Parse out the soup into individual containers to be heated up at the last minute. If serving with parmesan cheese, add the cheese after reheating.
Can I Freeze This Vegetarian Minestrone Soup?
Yes. This soup freezes well for up to 3 months.
More Hearty Vegetable Soup Recipes:
- Hearty Lentil and Butternut Soup
- Barley and Mushroom Soup
- Best Butternut Squash Soup
- Thai Style Pumpkin Squash Soup
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Hearty Vegetable Minestrone
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion 1/2" dice
- 2 stalks celery 1/2" dice
- 3 large carrots 1/2" slice
- 2 large cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whole fennel seed lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 15 ounce can kidney beans not drained
- 15 ounce can diced tomatoes in their juice
- 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 pound red skinned potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
- 1/2 pound green beans trimmed and cut into 1/2" pieces
- 1/3 cup quinoa
- 1/2 cup small pasta such as orzo, pastini, ditalini or alphabets
- 3 large leaves curly kale tough stems removed, roughly chopped
- In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Stir in the onions, carrots, celery and salt. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender and the onions and celery start to look translucent.
- Stir in the fennel, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper and garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes until aromatic. Add the vegetable broth, bay leaves, kidney beans in their liquid, diced tomatoes in their liquid and crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Add the chopped potato, green beans and quinoa. Bring the pot back to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until the potato is tender. Stir in the pasta and kale and cook until the pasta is done, about 8-10 minutes.
- Ladle the minestrone into bowls and serve with saltines or oyster crackers. Also good with grated parmesan cheese.