This hearty winter minestrone is filled to the brim with vegetables, greens, and beans, which makes it a literal meal in a bowl. This is the soup you need to keep warm during the cooler season!
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I don’t think I could go through winter without soup. I live in a city where winters are long, snowy, and extremely cold, and though I’ve become an expert at layering (even when I stay inside all day) and I rely on my trusted heated footrest to keep me warm at my desk, sometimes the cold goes straight to my bones. The only things that can really help me in those times are bottomless coffees and piping hot bowls of soup.
From quick lentil soup, to cheesy French onion soup, to oh-so-satisfying bowls of ramen, I love ALL soups with my whole heart. Growing up, the soup my mom made most often was minestrone. The minestrone my mom made was rich with veggies, beans, and pasta, which made it super hearty and nutritious. I remember when I was younger, I wasn’t so fond of the beans in the soup, but my love for minestrone grew as I did, and now it’s one of my favorite wintertime bowls of comfort.
I’m not sure my mom knew it back then, but minestrone isn’t a single, specific soup. The name of the soup, minestrone, comes from the Italian term minestra, which means, quite simply, “soup.” In Italian, several terms are used to designate soup: from zuppa, for a simple tomato soup, to minestrone, which is the most substantial type of soup. Minestrone is filled with vegetables and sometimes includes rice or pasta. It is always very thick and stew-like.
There is no set recipe for minestrone. Indeed, minestrone was born out of necessity and was traditionally made out of whatever vegetables were available, with the addition of beans to make it more nutritious. This means you could name any vegetable soup a minestrone and adapt the ingredients you use to follow the seasons. A spring minestrone can be made with fresh peas, leeks, and fennel; a summer minestrone could include green beans, zucchini, and fresh tomatoes and could be served, perhaps, with a spoonful of homemade pesto on top; and a fall minestrone would for sure feature squash.
Winter minestrone is the heartiest variety of minestrone. Filled with vegetables that traditionally keep through the winter, such as onion, carrots, and potatoes, and enriched with bitter greens and beans, winter minestrone is a literal meal in a bowl. My recipe for winter minestrone is inspired by the soup my mom used to make, with the addition of a few clever flavor boosters, such as pancetta and parmesan rind.
Speaking of parmesan rind! If you buy wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano, never ever throw away the rinds. Once you’ve used all the cheese, collect the rinds in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container in the freezer to use later. A single piece of rind adds a ton of flavor and depth to minestrone. It’s a great way to upgrade store-bought beef, chicken, or vegetable broth!
Winter minestrone is a soup you can and should make ahead of time. The flavors of this hearty soup fully develop after an overnight rest. So go on and make a double-batch: you can then freeze winter minestrone in portions and enjoy it for icy weeks or months to come.
Absolutely! Do as the Italians would and use whatever you have on hand. Frozen green peas, green beans, squash, and even broccoli or cauliflower florets would all make fine additions to winter minestrone.
Of course, you can! Simply soak 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry beans of your choice overnight, then add them to a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer the beans until tender, 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the variety. Drain and add to the winter minestrone when the recipe says to add in the canned beans.
Easy peasy! Simply omit the pancetta and parmesan from the recipe, and make sure to use vegetable broth. Serve vegan winter minestrone sprinkled with nutritional yeast for a lovely boost in flavor.
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