Vegetarian Minestrone – Recipe

Vegetarian Minestrone

Homemade minestrone has got to be one of the best rainy day foods in the world. Living in Seattle we've got ample opportunity to test that theory. It is certainly miles beyond the canned version. Add a glass of wine and a couple of big garlicky croutons to soak up the broth, maybe a salad, and you have a whole meal. 

The version of minestrone I always come back to is based on Marcella Hazan's Minestrone alla Romagnola recipe in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I've just streamlined it a bit  (soaking zucchini? why?) and omitted the beef broth to make it vegetarian. I think you will find that it is equally delicious with the simple tomatoey broth, especially if you include the parmesan rind.

The what? That's right, the parmesan rind. You know when you buy a piece of parmigiano-reggiano, there is always that piece at the end that is too hard to grate? Scrub those a bit and throw them in the freezer. Then, when you are ready to make minestrone, toss it in the pot. While the soup simmers, all that incredible flavor extracts out, filling the soup with umami. (Of course you can omit this for a vegan version.)

You can toss this soup together and let it simmer for just an hour, and it will be good. But if you can let it simmer for two or three hours, the flavor will truly develop. Even better, make it a day ahead of time and reheat it. I haven't been able to track down the science behind it, but umami rich foods, and tomato-flavored foods in particular always improve after 24 hours. If anyone has seen any research on this, please let me know.

As Marcella points out, this is one of those lovely dishes that doesn't require perfect advance preparation. You can easily prepare and cut each vegetable as the previous one is added to the pot and sauteed. I find that the recipe below fits just right in my beloved 5.5 quart Le Creuset pot.

Vegetarian Minestrone
Serves 6-8 as a main course
Vegetarian; gluten-free if you omit the crouton; vegan if you omit the cheese

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 medium carrots, small dice
  • 3 stalks celery, small dice (reserve leaves for garnish)
  • 2 cups small diced waxy potatoes, skin on
  • 1 handful green beans, ends trimmed, cut in 1/2" lengths
  • 3 medium zucchini, small dice
  • 3 cups finely shredded cabbage (Savoy or green)
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable broth powder; I like Seitenbacher (double check gluten free / vegan status if important to you). Don't be tempted to use a thick vegetarian broth; you can use a pre-mixed one as long as it is a clear brown type that tastes good.
  • 1 parmesan rind (see above)
  • 1 15 oz. can good quality whole Italian tomatoes with juice
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1 15 oz. can cannelini or white navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • big garlic-butter croutons for serving (optional)
  1. Heat the pot and the olive oil over a medium-low flame. Add the onion and a big pinch of salt and saute for 3 minutes. Add each of the following ingredients in turn, tossing and allowing to cook for 2-3 minutes after each one: carrots, celery, potatoes, green beans, zucchini, cabbage. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  2. Stir the broth powder into 6 cups of water and add to the pot. Add the parmesan rind. Add the tomatoes and their juice, and break them up a bit. Taste and add a little salt, with caution.
  3. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook for at least another 30 minutes and preferably up to 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Uncover, add the cannelini, and simmer for another 15-30 minutes. If it is getting too thick, add a bit more broth or water. If it is too thin, raise the heat just a little – don't boil hard or the vegetables will break up.
  5. To serve, discard the parmesan rind and stir in the grated cheese; taste and salt as needed. Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with the reserved celery leaves and a couple of the garlic-butter croutons. Pass more grated parmesan at the table. You might also like a little additional drizzle of good olive oil.

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 in Books, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Soups, Vegan or Modifiable.

21 Responses to “Vegetarian Minestrone – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    October 22, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

    Trying this tonight. Will get back to you with results!

  2. Reply
    October 22, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    This recipe has been a staple of my winter menu for years – Marcella is a goddess. I’ve made it with plain water as well as veggie stock. It’s richer with the stock but it’s pretty darn good even with just water. However I don’t discard the parmesan rind after the soup is cooked – I eat it!

    This soup also serves as a really good base for a poached egg.

  3. Reply
    October 22, 2009 at 4:15 pm #

    the florentine woman that recently taught me how to properly make minestrone would balk at the addition of water and broth powder to this soup (her technique is on my blog).

    i, on the other hand, think this sounds pretty tasty!

  4. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    Looks like you were doing some pretty incredible eating there! I gather that version of minestrone is quite a bit drier then, closer to a stew?

  5. Reply
    October 23, 2009 at 2:18 am #

    Oohhh…. How sad! My sister will be on out of town for 4 days! She’s the only one here in the house that loves to cook! I really want to taste this one! Honestly, I love vegetables and this looks really yummy!

  6. Reply
    October 23, 2009 at 5:01 am #

    Your soup looks wonderful and you have a very nice blog!


  7. Reply
    John Hughes
    October 23, 2009 at 6:48 am #

    I’m interested in your claim that tomato-based stuff (or other food) tastes better a day later. I instinctively agreed, but I also have some doubts. Maybe it tastes better because it’s already prepared and you don’t have to do all that work, for instance. Maybe (for lasagna) it tastes better because the re-heating makes the surface just a tiny bit crispier, etc. I’d like to figure out a reasonable way to do an A/B test of this. Any thoughts?

  8. Reply
    October 23, 2009 at 11:09 am #

    I think that most things that are stewed or simmered taste better the next day. The flavors meld and have time to think about being together, which makes for better eating.

    I am fighting a nasty virus and don’t have the energy to cook. I LOATHE canned soup. Would you be so kind as to put some of this minestrone in an envelope and send it to me? Thanks!

  9. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 23, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    I'm slapping my head and saying "doh!", because of course you are right – if I can't find the science, I can do the science. So I guess we'll get two can of the same brand of tomato sauce and make 3 samples:

    (1) Open on day 1, aerate, refrigerate

    (2) Open on day 1, heat, aerate, refrigerate

    (3) Leave unopened in refrigerator

    Seasoning them all with the same amount of salt. Then on day 2, we'll open can 3 and taste them all blind and see if we can determine a difference. If there is a difference, then we'd have to dive deeper to determine the chemistry. I gotta try this.

  10. Reply
    October 24, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    It looks delicious! Food for me always tastes better when their flavor has more time to mingle. We also have more time to enjoy the food the following day because we dont need to spend hours slaving in the kitchen 😛

  11. Reply
    October 24, 2009 at 11:14 pm #

    Somehow I always thought that minestrone was vegetarian…is there any other type? 🙂

    I eat all types of cheeses and do put my crusts in soups, but if I cook for a vegetarian who only eats cheese made with vegetarian rennet I cannot use parmigiano, but have to opt for a vegetarian parmesan.

  12. Reply
    October 26, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    I’m from Romagna, the place evoked by Marcella in the title of this recipe. I omit the beef broth as well as the parmesan rind!

  13. Reply
    November 26, 2009 at 7:53 am #

    Extremely easy to make and tastes great! The cheese really does add that deliciously brothy flavour. This is great for poor students too, nutritious and cheap ingredients and perfect for making a large batch and just freeze it. Thanks!

  14. Reply
    Amy Clay
    February 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    I found that tip about the parmesan rind in cooks a couple months ago and love it. Man does that add some flavor! New to your site and am preachin to the masses about how great it is. Thank you for new exciting recipes and ideas!

  15. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    February 2, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    Thanks Amy! I really appreciate you spreading the word, too. I've got a new Facebook fan page which I think is a great way to share and communicate as well. Here's the link: link to

  16. Reply
    February 26, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    Hi, a question about the vegetables used to make the soup. Do you drain the veges after you’ve boiled the soup for 2.5 hours? Or would you recommend discarding the veges and adding in a new batch, simmering for 10 mins before eating so that they retain their crunch. Thanks!

  17. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    February 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Hey Nisha – for a traditional minestrone like this, you want the vegetables fully "hammered". You could certainly do what you are suggesting for a more modern take. It will be quite different but no reason it couldn't be good.

  18. Reply
    April 11, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Just made this for dinner, it was absolutely delicious! The garlic bread added a surprising amount.

  19. Reply
    Pamela Drake
    October 23, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Gee whiz, the joys of having knee-jerk vegan daughters. Now I have to make TWO versions of the same soup so my husband and I can enjoy the umami of parmesan rind! 😀

  20. Reply
    January 21, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    I’ve just edited a vegetarian cookbook with a foreword by Rabbi Rami Shapiro for my temple, containing delicious recipes, fascinating stories, useful resources, and more.

    There’s a minestrone soup in there as well. 🙂

    Justice in the Kitchen

    All proceeds support Or Shalom Jewish Community and will be well used and much appreciated.

  21. Reply
    January 28, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    The soup sounds delicious. I also like to save the parmesan rinds for soups and stews. They add a lovely richness.

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