A vegetable soup will tell you where you are in Italy almost as precisely as a map. There are the soups of the south, leaning heavily on tomato, garlic, and oil, sometimes containing  pasta; there are those of the center, heavily fortified with beans; the soups of the north, with rice; those of the Riviera,  with fresh herbs; and there are nearly as many variations  in between as there are local cooks. In Romagna, very little is put into minestrone  beyond a variety of seasonal vegetables, whose separate characteristics give way and intermingle  through very slow cooking in broth. The result is a soup of mellow, dense flavor that recalls no vegetable in particular but all of them at once.

It is not necessary to prepare all the vegetables ahead of time, although I do anyway because that’s the part I hate most. The vegetables don’t go into the pot all at once. Allow vegetables to cook at least 2 or 3 minutes before adding the next. Do the vegie preparation whichever way you prefer.


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 TBS. butter
  • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white beans, if available, or 1 1/2 cups canned cannellini  beans or Great Northern  beans or 3/4 cup dried white beans, cooked as directed
  • 2 cups diced zucchini
  • 1 cup diced green beans
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage, preferable  Savoy cabbage
  • 2 cups canned beef broth mixed with 4 cups water
  • The crust from a 1- or 2- pound piece of Parmesan cheese,
  • 2/3 cup canned Italian tomatoes, with their juice
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Choose a stockpot large enough for all the ingredients. Put in the oil, butter, and sliced onion and cook over medium-low heat until the onion wilts and is pale gold in color but not browned. Add the diced carrots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice. Repeat this procedure with the celery, potatoes, white beans (if you are using the fresh beans), zucchini, and green beans, cooking each one a few minutes and stirring. Then add the shredded cabbage and cook for about 6 minutes, giving the pot an occasional stir.
  2. Add the broth, the cheese crust, the tomatoes and their juice, and a little bit of salt. (Go easy on the salt, you can always add more salt later.) Cover and cook at a very slow boil for a least 3 hours. If necessary, you can stop the cooking at any time and resume it later on. Minestrone must never be thin and watery, so cook until it is soupy thick. If you should find that the soup is becoming too thick, you can add another cup of water. Don’t add more broth because it will be too beefy and too salty.  Trust me, I’ve done it all!
  3. Fifteen minutes before the soup is done, add the canned or cooked dry beans (if you are not using fresh ones). Just before turning off the heat, remove the cheese crust, swirl in the grated cheese,(I always use more parm than this recipe calls for) then taste it and correct for salt. Just like the French onion soup, this soup is better the next day too.


What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *