Italian Minestrone Soup is hearty and comforting, packed full of greens, chickpeas, and vegetables in a delicious and bright tomato broth. You can customize this recipe to use up pantry staples and clean out your crisper drawer, too.
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 orzo 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.
Porcini mushrooms: Dried porcinis are sold in small packets, usually in the spice aisle, with the Asian ingredients, or in the produce section. They are sold whole, in pieces, or in powder form. You can also substitute a different dried mushroom such as Shiitakes (used in my chicken ramen). I buy dried porcinis on Amazon (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).
Kale: Curly red, green, or deep, dark cavalo nero. 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 even lentils: cannellini, Northern beans, etc.
Orzo: Or any other small pasta: ditalini, rotini, or couscous. Minestrone can also be made with rice.
Yield: Approximately 12 cups of soup.
Make ahead: I love this soup the best on the day it's made when the pasta is perfectly al dente. If you need to make it ahead, hold the pasta back and add it when you reheat the soup.
Storage: Store leftover soup in the refrigerator and enjoy the leftovers within 4 days.
Freezing: This soup is a great candidate for freezing. Portion, label, and date. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before gently reheating on the stove.
Parmesan cheese: You can store leftover Parmesan rinds in the freezer for future soup-making and pull them out to add to soups like this. Major flavor! Add a piece along with the tomatoes in step 5 of this recipe.
Pancetta or chicken broth: Some classic minestrone recipes make the soup with chicken broth or beef broth or cooks might add some pancetta, a cured Italian bacon, to the pot along with the vegetables. This is a kitchen-sink style recipe, so everyone improvises a little bit depending on what they have.