I love soup. It's October now so some may say it's finally soup season. But for me, it's always soup season. I'm the person who will order a piping hot bowl of soup at a restaurant in the middle of July, so long as the air conditioning is working. It's just so comforting and why should we reserve that feeling for only the cool and cold months? Well, if you're me, you don't.
But there is something extra wonderful about a steaming bowl of soup on a day when you can see your breath in the air, you're wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, and maybe even a hat on your head. It warms you from the inside out and there is just something so wholesome and nostalgic about that. I love it.
Minestrone has been my favorite soup for as long as I can remember. I loved going to Italian restaurants and ordering a cup before my main course would come (I'm talking like 12 year old me doing this into adult years). When I started cooking for myself, I found soups to be a great way to make a lot of food with minimal effort that would last me all week AND not cost an arm and a leg. My first try at minestrone was from a cookbook specifically for Crockpots (aka SLOW cookers, which, by the way, is not what my blog is named after). It was good and I used that recipe unaltered (minus one step) for several years.
As I learned more about flavors, textures, and cooking in general, I through out the old recipe and created my own (though I still give a nod to that original recipe every time I make this). It's so easy to make and despite how simple the recipe is, it really does have some complexity when you get that spoonful into your mouth.
I love this soup so much and I make it many, many times throughout the year. I love it so much, I actually don't order minestrone out at restaurants much anymore because I tend to be disappointed when comparing it to me own (which is REALLY rare). I enjoy making a bit pot on Sunday and having soup for lunch the whole week. Or eating a giant bowl with a piece of crusty bread on Sunday night for a light and healthy but hearty and fulfilling meal to set you up for the week ahead.
This soup is my gold standard for soup. I hope you love it as much as I do.
Watch my TikTok to see me make this in action!
Comforting Minestrone Soup
(Makes ~ 6 hearty servings)
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 1 hour
Click below to download and print the recipe
Ingredients (See recipe notes below before starting):
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4" wedges (see above photo)
1 yellow squash, cut into 1/4" wedges
1 14oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (navy, kidney or great northern beans work too)
4 C. (1 quart) chicken broth (low sodium preferred)
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 head of green cabbage, cut into chunks (see above photo)
3/4 C. dry red wine (chianti preferred)
Cooked small-cut pasta (such as mini shells, ditalini, or mini bowties), optional
In a dutch oven or large stock pot over medium heat, heat about 2TB of olive oil then add the onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add the zucchini and squash, stirring to coat in olive oil (adding more if needed) and sauté until the veggies are softening (but not mushy) and the squash is getting a little translucent, about 5 more minutes. Make sure to stir the veggies occasionally so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan and do not brown. Turn down the heat if anything is sticking or browning. Season everything with some salt and pepper.
To the pot, add the beans, chicken broth, and crushed tomatoes plus 1 cup (8 oz.) of water. Stir everything to fully combine. Drop in the bay leaf.
Bring the soup to a slow boil then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cover and let gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring and checking occasionally so it's not boiling.
After 30 minutes, check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the red wine and cabbage then let simmer for another 25 minutes.
Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. Remove the bay leaf.
Serve up in a big bowl with cooked small-cut pasta and a piece of crusty bread. Be careful, it's hot! But also, delicious.
*Recipe notes + Variations*
My Grandpa S. was the king of soup and he always told me never let soup boil, it should only simmer. So keep an eye on your pot so it's not getting too hot as the liquid cooks.
This recipe is open to a lot of person interpretation. Make the veggies as chunky or small as you want. If you cut them smaller, sauté them for less time so they don't get mushy.
If you don't want waste and want to use the whole 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, just add either a cup of water or an extra cup for chicken broth if you have it. Otherwise it's too thick.
Use what veggies you can find. Sometimes the yellow squash at my grocery store is a little meh, so I'll just do 2 zucchini instead, but I do like variation of 2 different squashes if possible.
Make this vegetarian and vegan by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth!
You really need the wine here, so if you skip it, it will really be missing on overall flavor and depth of flavor. All of the alcohol cooks out and just leaves a deep, rich flavor that you can't get any other way. Sorry, there are no good substitutes. It doesn't need to be pricey wine though. Use whatever you drink, or if you're not a big (red) wine drinker, grab one of those single-serve wine bottles (or single-serve box of wine) you find in the wine aisle. I do this for white wine needs all the time and it's a great little hack.
Use your favorite beans. I love cannellini beans in this because they are an Italian bean, but they are also soft and creamy. I find kidney beans to have too fibrous of a skin that is not appealing to me. Navy or Great Northern Beans are a great alternative to cannellini if you can't find them. Sometimes cannellini beans are called white kidney beans.
In a Crockpot, add the carrots, celery, onions, zucchini, squash, beans, broth, tomatoes, and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook on low for 5 hours or high for 3 hours. After the time is up, add the wine and the cabbage then cook for another 2 hours on low or 1 hour on high, or until the alcohol is cooked off and the cabbage is softened.