Another heartwarming healthy vegan soup is on today’s agenda: this time it’s minestrone, a classic Italian vegetable soup. This version of plant-based minestrone is relatively simple and quick (don’t be scared by the long list of ingredients!), and you can customize it by using different vegetables and their amounts.
FYI: In modern Italian language, there are three words that relate to the English word ‘soup’: zuppa, which refers to tomato-based soups or fish soups; minestra, referring to a more substantial vegetable soup or ‘dry soup’ such as pasta; and minestrone, which denotes a very substantial or large soup or stew.
While there is no set recipe for minestrone soup, cooks agree that a classic version should include beans, pasta, and an array of vegetables, such as potatoes, tomatoes, celery, onions, zucchini, etc. Non-vegan versions often call for bacon, meat, or some kind of meat-based stock, but they are unnecessary if you want to create a hearty, plant-based soup that will make a filling dinner and yield some leftovers for the next day’s lunch!
In my house, this is my go to recipe whenever I’m in the mood for a hearty, hot soup that’s filling and at the same time not too heavy. Plus, my husband loves it because he can take the leftovers to work the next day!
I find it that the most labor-intensive part is chopping all those veggies. Thankfully, I don’t mind it too much because I can do the prep while some of the veggies are already cooking: start with your onion-carrot-celery mix, and while these veggies are cooking in the pot, peel and chop your potatoes, open cans of diced tomatoes and beans, and set up the spices that you’ll be using. Time flies when you’re having fun!
I prefer to use little to no oil of any kind in my plant-based cooking (this minestrone recipe doesn’t use any) for maximal health benefits. If you’re not familiar with the no-oil dietary approach and why it is beneficial to our health, I highly recommend this article by Dr. John McDougall, as well as my earlier post on the work of the leading researchers and doctors who propose plant-based nutrition.
Different versions of minestrone suggest adding a leafy green vegetable towards the end of cooking: it can be cabbage, kale, spinach, or any other vegetable available to you. Cooking times may differ: if you’re using cabbage, add it at least 5 min before the soup is done; with kale, you’ll need to add it just as you’re taking the soup off the stove. This is what my recipe calls for here, but if you want to have an extra twist of healthy goodness of fresh veggies in every bowl, do this instead: skip adding kale or cabbage, and as you’re ladling hot soup into bowls, add a handful of fresh spinach into each bowl and let it wilt a little from the soup’s heat!
Another twist: if you prefer creamier blended soups, use less water/broth and don’t add pasta. Cook the soup until it’s done, then cool it off a little, add to a blender/food processor in batches, and blend until smooth (alternatively, use an immersion blender). Once done with this step, return the soup to the pot, bring to a boil, and add pasta. Cook until pasta is done, cool off a bit, and serve!
This vegan minestrone soup is hearty and filling! Make the batch as directed to feed four people, or two with generous leftovers.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1-2 celery stalks, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 medium potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes and then rinsed
- 1 zuccini/squash, sliced into half-rounds
- 2.5 cups cooked white beans (cannellini, navy, etc),
- or 2 14-ounce cans of beans (use 2 different kinds), drained and rinsed
- 1 can petite-diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup small pasta (shells, bow-ties, etc.)
- 2 cups torn kale leaves, packed
- 7 cups boiling hot vegetable broth/water - here's how to make your own veggie broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
- 1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary (or 1/4 Tbsp dried)
- pinch of cayenne
- salt, pepper to taste
- Heat up a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add 2 Tbsp water to the bottom. When it starts bubbling, add chopped onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Let cook until soft, about 7 min, stirring a few times and adding more water to prevent vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- In a separate pot, bring 7 cups of vegetable broth/water to a boil. Set aside.
- Add potatoes, zucchini/squash, beans, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, and cayenne to the soup pot. Stir well, letting the mixture get hot. Pour in hot broth/water. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10-15 min on medium, or until potatoes are soft.
- Add pasta and chopped fresh rosemary. Cook for 5 more min.
- Add salt and black pepper. Taste, adjust seasonings as you prefer.
- Take the pot off the stove. Stir in kale leaves torn by hand. Cover, let the soup cool for 10 min before serving.
- For some twists at serving, see the post above.
Potatoes may take the longest to cook. Here's a trick to speed things up: after you diced and rinsed potatoes, put them into a microwave-safe bowl and cook in a microwave on high for 1 min 30 sec. When you add them to the soup, they will be already halfway cooked, so the soup will need to boil for only 7-10 min before you add pasta.
Have you tried other versions of vegan minestrone soup? What did you like about them? Are there any other plant-based soups that you enjoy? Share your thoughts with us!