Best Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
2019 has been a particularly cold and snowy winter. It seems that the snow barely melts just in time for the next storm to hit. But besides the slushy sidewalks I can’t complain too much because it gives me the perfect excuse to huddle down in the kitchen and whip up some soup.
Why Minestrone Is One
Of My Favorite Soups
First of all, its jam packed with nutritious vegetables that slowly simmer and absorb the seasonings and flavors of the soup. Every bite is packed with flavor and nutrition and its a recipe I feel great about serving to my family.
Secondly, it’s vegetarian. While Italian minestrone traditionally contains pancetta, salt pork, bacon, or other cured meats, my vegetarian version relies solely on veggies, spices and another secret ingredient to build up the flavor. This makes it more affordable and sustainable.
It also comes together in one pot, so all you need is a good knife, cutting board, and stock pot to make this minestrone.
The next best part is that it's so delicious, even a self-proclaimed veggie hater will love it. Instead of dumping all of the ingredients into the pot and simmering it, we build up the flavor by sautéing the veggies, toasting the faro and then adding in the remaining ingredients and parmesan rind.
You heard me right right! Parmesan rind is the secret ingredient in this minestrone recipe! If you’re not saving your parmesan rinds, you should and here are some reasons why. You won’t believe the impact this makes on the flavor and texture of the soup.
But my favorite part is how versatile it is: you can make the soup with what is on hand in the pantry and with veggies that need to be used up in the fridge. While you are certainly welcome to follow this minestrone recipe exactly, you can substitute whatever is in season.
Ingredients For Minestrone Soup
Like I mentioned above, this recipe truly can be adapted to incorporate most veggies you have on hand or whatever is in season that you find at the grocery store. In general minestrone includes:
This is the “meat” so to speak of our soup and it gets all of its heartiness from a variety of vegetables. I decided to include: onion, garlic, kabocha squash, chard and fresh green beans that I had left over from another recipe. You can also use carrots, celery, potato, peas, zucchini, italian squash, leek, fresh tomato, cabbage, or kale to name a few. But I also encourage you to get creative!
I kept it fairly traditional with fresh parsley, oregano and thyme, but dried herbs can also be used here.
While you can use fresh tomatoes, I opted for canned, peeled, whole tomatoes since we are still in Winter. I like the touch of added sweetness it lends and I prefer the chunkier texture that whole tomatoes brings to the soup over diced or pureed.
Stock or Water
Since this soup is all about what you have on hand and I didn’t have any vegetarian stock in my pantry, I used 4 cups of water to add body to the soup instead of broth. However, you can use any broth. It’s especially good with the use of homemade vegetable broth. But if your’e not vegetarian and have homemade chicken or bone broth on hand, you can use that as well.
Grains Or Noodles
Most recipes you will see call for noodles, but I chose to use faro, a healthy whole grain that’s full of fiber and minerals, not to mention a complex carb. I’ve had it in my pantry for a while, the remnants of another recipe that I got from the bulk section of my local grocery store. You can use barley, rice, risotto, oricchiette, or any small pasta.
The great thing about using Faro is that it won’t really get overcooked in this recipe. If you choose to use noodles, make sure you check their cooking directions and add them in in the process to where they won’t overcook.
This is another area where you can get creative. I used canned white beans but you can use kindey, cannellini, or even pinto. I add these in near the end so they are just heated through and don’t turn into mush.
This is an optional but very delicious addition to the broth of the soup. It thickens it and also lends a strong parmesan flavor that goes far beyond what can be achieved by adding some in at the end. I like to add a rind that still has a bit of cheese left on for an even better soup texture and flavor.
I like topping it with some more fresh parsley and grated parmesan and serving it with some crusty bread or homemade sourdough.
How To Make Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
As I previously mentioned, this soup relies on developing our flavor slowly through bringing out the flavors of our fresh ingredients bit by bit.
You start by sautéing the onion and garlic until translucent and then adding in the squash to soften it up a bit. To add an extra flavor, we then add in the dry farro to toast and brown up a bit.
Then we add in our fresh herbs just until fragrant to intensify their flavor before adding and breaking up our canned tomato. Once that is simmered a bit we add in our water or stock, parmesan rind and green beans and slowly simmer until al dente. We then add our canned beans and chard in for the last 5 minutes of cooking time and then stir in a cup of freshly grated parmesan off heat. Be sure to remove the parmesan rind before serving.
Minestrone is an incredibly versatile and delicious soup that can change with the seasons. It’s perfect for a weeknight meal or for entertaining and is truly amazing on a cold day.
I highly recommend the addition of parmesan rind, so make sure you save one the next time you buy parmesan and you can even ask for it at the cheese counter.
If you try this, please let me know in the comments or by reaching out on my instagram. I would love to hear from you!