April: Minestrone – the Quintessential Spring Soup

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Buon giorno!

MINESTRONE is actually an old timer. It has been around for centuries dating back to the days before even the Roman Empire. The diet at that time was mostly vegetables anyway – with very little meat eaten at all. Later, as the Roman roads expanded and more goods filtered into the area, meat in all forms made its way into the diet, and of course into the soup!

MINESTRONE is considered a peasant soup whose form alters with the change of seasonal vegetables or even your whim. However, the spring vegetables are closely associated with it. You’ll find it on many Italian Easter and spring menus using spring greens and other favorites of the season. Although your minestrone can really be whatever you want it to be, you’ll find certain veggies in most of the ones served – such as beans, greens,potatoes, and carrots. Pasta, in some form, is usually included. This is one healthy soup, as you can imagine, with all of these good veggies swirling around in it. Whether you choose to add meat to yours is up to you. I like to add meat as the resulting flavor is deeper and richer. Of course, my choice for meat for this soup would be some form of pork.

My mother, Loretta, used to make the most amazing minestra, as she called it. In the spring, she would use a ham bone for extra flavor. Often this bone came from the ham she served for New Year’s. She would “squirrel” it away in the freezer until just before Easter when she made her simple minestra with greens – often dandelion greens. Minestra is merely a simple form of MINESTRONE – which by its name meant “big minestra”. And BIG it is, depending on the number of vegetables you care to include.

This recipe for MINESTRONE, though simple, makes a LOT of soup. That’s the beauty of it. You have soup for your meal, soup for the next day, and soup in the freezer for another time. It is flavorful, hearty, and good for you. You’ll be happy you have extra!


Makes:  a lot! (freeze some for another day)

PREP: 30 minutes

COOK: 30 minutes


1 1/2 – 2 C. Ditalini or Elbow Pasta or another small size pasta shape – cooked separately

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 oz. Salt Pork – chopped

1 onion – chopped

15 Baby Carrots – chopped

1 Stalk Celery – chopped

1/2 Red Pepper – chopped

1/2 Yellow Pepper – chopped

1 Crown Broccoli – cut up

1 bunch Kale Leaves– rinsed,  and torn into pieces

4 Oz. Mushrooms – sliced

2 Yukon Gold Potatoes – cubed

1 15 oz.Can Cannellini Beans – rinsed, drained

1 14 oz Can Chopped Tomatoes

64 oz. Chicken or Vegetable Broth

2 C. Water

2 Bay Leaves

1 Piece Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Rind

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

Salt and Pepper to taste

A generous squeeze of a fresh lemon

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino to serve with it.


Saute the salt pork in the olive oil 1-2 minutes.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, red & yellow peppers, broccoli, kale, mushrooms, and potatoes. Cook just a few minutes, stirring.

Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, water, Bay Leaves, Rind, red pepper flakes, and herbs.

Bring to boil and reduce heat to medium low and keep at a  good simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.

Add the cooked pasta to the soup. Stir.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper and give the soup a generous squeeze from a fresh lemon.

Remove the Bay Leaves as they can cause choking.

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Yes! It’s that easy folks. Serve your MINESTRONE with plenty of grated cheese on the side. This will serve about 8 people – or divide it up to freeze portions for another day. You’ll be glad you did!


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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  1. Delicious and colorful.
    Great for the sunny spring day that still has a chill in the air.