My Grandma’s easy minestrone soup recipe is one of the healthiest vegetable-loaded soups you’ll make, and it tastes far better than any of those Olive Garden copycat recipes thanks to the secret ingredient in the savory broth.
“It is well worth the time and effort.”
But then, isn’t most anything when it’s done with love?
My sweet Grandma Frieda passed away when I was a senior in college and while there are many things that remind me of her, as a recipe maker it’s the cookbooks I inherited from her that I see most often.
One of my favorite things about her copies of The Joy of Cooking (pub. 1953) and Epicure’s Delight (pub. 1944) are the pages and margins filled with recipes written in her elegant handwriting that as a German-immigrant shows off the hard work it took to become a part of her new country. Like the quote says above, it is well worth the time and effort.
Nestled within those cookbook pages are recipe cards for recipes from friends like Edith’s Coffee Cake and Loretta’s Zucchini Soufflé which have both moved to my must-make list.
But the recipe that shows up time and time again is this Minestrone recipe from San Francisco’s Petrini Gourmet Grocery Stores, likely cut from the San Mateo Times’ newspaper recipe section to promote more soup bone sales for the homemade beef broth.
And because it’s #soupweek (did you see the Instant Pot Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup?) we’re keeping the slurps going by presenting The Gourmet by Petrini’s Minestrone Soup where either the newspaper editors or Petrini himself lured readers with the headnote mentioned above and can describe any meal when it’s made with love: It is well worth the time and effort, and even more so because this recipe is actually really easy to make.
How to Make a Traditional Minestrone
Whether you say minestrone soup like the Italians aka “min eh stron ee” or “min eh stron eh”, this soup is the perfect gateway to woo non-veggie lovers into getting a head start on their five a day. It’s brothy and flavorful with potatoes, pasta, and cheese that makes the veggies more than palatable. Use a small macaroni or pasta that matches the diced size of your veggies for equal tastes in every bite.
Because this soup has the simplest of ingredients and can be made with ease, the key is starting with the best quality you can find or afford.
Let’s start with the the broth.
Grandma’s newspaper recipe calls for a super simple stock of bones and water slow-simmered for flavor. But I like a richer, heartier stock so my homemade beef stock fit the bill here. Or if you prefer, use chicken broth (this is my favorite homemade) or a veggie stock instead. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your stock from scratch, always choose a grocery store version that’s high quality with ingredients you can actually read.
To the stock you’ll be adding diced tomatoes, adding more richness and a bit of acid to balance the flavors.
The other source for this soup’s distinctive minestrone flavor comes from the spunk of Parmesan cheese and while grandma’s recipe doesn’t call for it, I have a secret that learned of long ago: to cook the broth with a few leftover rinds of Parmesan cheese. This step really imparts that cheesy flavor and takes your broth from a tepid vegetable flavor to minestrone all the way.
What Vegetables Go In Minestrone Soup?
One of the best things about Minestrone Soup is it can truly be a clean-out-the-fridge recipe you can fiddle with based on what you have on hand or what’s in season. Traditionally, the are the vegetables that most often show up:
- Beans (kidney and Great Northern beans are my favorites)
- Cabbage (shred it thin)
- Leeks (use the white parts only)
- Green beans (canned works wonders)
While most people think of minestrone as a vegetarian soup, Petrini’s recipe begins with salt pork. Yep, this recipe is from days gone by. I used bacon instead. To make this minestrone soup vegetarian, skip the bacon and use a rich vegetable stock in lieu of the beef stock instead.
More Recipe Ideas to Make With this Soup and Make a Meal
- Melted Mozzarella Caprese Crostini Toasts
- Outrageous Herbaceous Chickpea Salad
- Ultimate Italian Salad Platter
- Killer Garlic Rolls
- Chicken Caprese Sandwich
- Pepperoni Pizza Rolls
- Berry Tart With Lemon Curd Mascarpone
- How to Make Classic Tiramisu
My Grandma's Minestrone Soup
Because this soup gets a salty bite from the bacon and a generous helping of Parmesan cheese (plus Parmesan cheese rinds cooked with the broth) go light on the salt at the beginning of the cooking time and adjust the seasoning by adding more if needed just before serving.
- 4-5 slices bacon, roughly sliced into bite size pieces
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 2/3 cup chopped leeks, white part only
- 2/3 cup chopped celery
- 3 quarts beef stock (12 cups)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 chunks of Parmesan cheese rind
- 1 1/2 cups potatoes
- 1 cup small macaroni
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- Add the bacon to a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat and cook until browned but not crispy. Add the onion, carrots, leeks and celery then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beef stock, kosher salt, pepper, and cheese rinds. Bring to a boil then reduce to a gently rolling simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, partially covered with a lid. Add the potatoes, macaroni, and tomatoes, then partially cover with the lid, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes more. Add the kidney beans and peas, and simmer until warmed through. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste. Just before serving, add the grated Parmesan cheese and serve sprinkled with more Parmesan if you’d like.
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