Italian Minestrone Soup is hearty yet gentle, packed full of greens, chickpeas, and vegetables in a delicious and bright tomato broth. This kitchen-sink recipe is a great way to use up pantry staples, and makes short work of the odds and ends in your crisper drawer, too. It’s totally vegan, unless you add Parmesan cheese.
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Instead of chicken broth, pancetta, or cheese, dried porcini mushrooms are the backbone of this vegan soup. They add amazing umami flavor. And hopefully, you have a bunch of kale in your veggie drawer, waiting to be put to good use. If not, any sturdy leafy green—even spinach—will do.
Making classic Minestrone Soup for meals for the week? Just click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Even though there are no strict rules about what goes Minestrone Soup, here are the basics. Of course, you can improvise depending on what you have on hand: leftover herbs, fresh tomatoes, potatoes, collard greens...it's up to you!
- Porcini mushrooms. You can find small packets of dried porcini mushrooms in well-stocked grocery stores, spice shops, or online. If you don't have them, make the soup with mushroom stock or vegetable stock in place of water.
- Olive oil.
- Onions and celery.
- Canned diced tomatoes. Have whole tomatoes instead? Chop them up--it will be great!
- Kale. Or any hearty, leafy dark green, like escarole, chard, etc.
- Chickpeas. Borlotti beans are the classic bean in the soup, but you can use any type of beans or lentils: cannellini, Northern beans, etc.
- Macaroni. Or any other small pasta: ditalini, fregola, farfalline. Minestrone can also be made with rice.
- Red chili flakes. Adds a little kick at the end.
- Salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Water. The base of the soup is water, but you can use vegetable stock to keep it vegan/vegetarian.
What’s the difference between vegetable soup and traditional minestrone?
A vegetable soup can be anything containing vegetables, from Cream of Asparagus Soup to Roasted Tomato Soup. Minestrone is usually thicker and heartier, made with tomatoes, beans, (or lentils) and pasta (or rice).
Plus, not all minestrone soups are vegan or even vegetarian. Some recipes make the soup with chicken stock or beef stock. Sometimes cooks add some pancetta, a cured Italian bacon, to the pot along with the vegetables.
Others toss in a hard rind of Parmesan cheese to give the broth extra body as it cooks. By the way, if you’re not strictly vegan, this is definitely the soup you should make with that cheese rind you’ve been saving in your freezer. Go get it! (And if you're tossing your hard Parmesan rinds, stash them in a freezer bag and hold on to them for future soup making! You won't believe how much they add to soup.)
What are porcini mushrooms?
One of the most flavorful mushrooms out there, and what gives this soup its earthy flavor. Because of their short season and large demand, it’s nearly impossible to find fresh porcini mushrooms, so don’t worry about that.
Instead, look for dried, which are sold in small packets, usually in the spice aisle or the mushroom section of the produce department. Sometimes they are sold whole, in pieces, or in powder form, which usually costs less money.
A little goes a long way. But as with most luxury ingredients, the larger the quantity you buy, the less expensive they are.
If you can’t find them, Trader Joe’s sells a product called “Mushroom and Company Umami Seasoning Blend,” which is made with porcini powder, mushroom powder, salt, and a few other herbs and spices. Feel free to use some, in a pinch, but adjust the salt and pepper accordingly.
How to make the best Minestrone Soup from scratch:
- Before you begin, hydrate the porcini mushrooms by adding them to a bowl and pouring some boiling water over them. In 5 to 10 minutes, they’ll soften up. After that, take them out and mince them up. Keep the mushroom water, but strain it through a fine-mesh sieve or a coffee filter to get rid of any sand or grit.
- Next, heat some olive oil in a large pot with a heavy bottom or a Dutch oven, over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, porcini mushrooms, and some salt and pepper. Cook this mixture, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Once the vegetables are softened, stir in the garlic. Then pour in the mushroom liquid and the water and use it to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Then add the tomatoes and their juice, kale, and drained chickpeas. Stir everything together. It’s okay to add the kale in a few batches in order to get it all in the pot.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and let simmer until the greens are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Afterwards, stir in the pasta and continue to simmer until tender. Smaller shapes take less time, usually 5 to 7 minutes. Give the broth a taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle bowls of the soup with red chili flakes, if you like. And some grated Parmesan cheese, if you have it.
Minestrone Soup Recipe
- 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and chopped
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 4 cups water
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes undrained
- 1 pound kale or escarole, chopped
- 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas or kidney beans or cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
- 8 ounces macaroni or other small pasta (orzo, ditalini, etc.)
- Red chili flakes for serving, optional
- In a medium bowl, add dried mushrooms and boiling water. Let sit until soft and pliable, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer mushrooms to a cutting board and mince. Using a fine-mesh strainer lined with paper towel, or a coffee filter, strain liquid into a medium bowl. Set minced mushrooms and mushroom liquid aside.
- In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrot, celery, minced mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste (I like 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper). Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in strained mushroom liquid and water, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add tomatoes and their juice, kale, and chickpeas and stir to combine (add kale in batches if it doesn't immediately all fit in the pot). Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until kale is almost tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Stir in macaroni and simmer until the pasta is tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper). Garnish with red chili flakes if desired.