Hearty Minestrone

There’s nothing like making a hearty soup to break in a new kitchen. And you know how it is when you move: until you get the pantry stocked and a few items in the fridge, there’s a lot of pizza and canned soup going on (or, in our case, burritos). So it was a welcome break in routine this morning to wake up to a stormy Monday, hot coffee waiting in the kitchen, and  some free time to get busy in the kitchen. Finally.

Now a quick business note before we talk about minestrone. You’ve probably noticed: A Sweet Spoonful got a face lift! Have a peek around. There are some new features and pages, giving you the ability to print recipes, read travel pieces and restaurant reviews, and browse previous posts via photos. I also added a little Amazon page: just things I like and use often in the kitchen that I think you may like, too. The new site just went live a few days ago and somehow I’ve lost a lot of subscribers in the transition (not really sure how), and there have been a few mass email snafus (hopefully we’ve stopped that from happening in the future). So please make sure your readers/RSS are up to date and/or that you’ve subscribed via email in the box to the left. I’d love for you to stick around!

Now on to the important stuff: hearty, winter soups. Minestrone is an Italian staple and is often known as “the big soup.”  It’s kind of ironic that I found this recipe and set out to the store to purchase all of the ingredients (as our kitchen is still under- stocked at this point) because traditionally, this was a soup that you kind of add whatever’s in the fridge–from meats, to rice and pastas, to vegetables.  Most minestrone’s I’ve had in the past are thick, tomato-based soups. But I was drawn to this particular recipe because it called for pancetta (hello!) and instructed you to simmer the soup with a Parmesan rind. Intriguing. It’s more of a brothy soup, with lots of vegetables and incredible flavors. Perfect for a stormy afternoon…of which we’ve been having quite a few of around here lately.

This recipe is from the Culinary Institute of America’s The New Book of Soups. I did receive this book  for free from the publishers; I actually wrote to them specifically about it because I’d heard such great things and was curious to take a peek. Now I’m not generally one who likes cookbooks devoted to one dish. There’s something overwhelming about them. But I’m also someone who loves soup, and living in the fog 85% of the year makes it the perfect comfort food. The book is organized intuitively in categories including Cream Soups, Stews, and Bisques and Chowders. There’s also great information on shopping for soup ingredients, aromatics, making homemade broth, and selecting the proper soup pots or stock pots. I wanted a particularly hearty soup, so I did adapt the CIA’s recipe just a bit, adding more carrots, beans, and pancetta than they suggest.


Hearty Minestrone

Hearty Minestrone

  • Yield: 8
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 45 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr

A few notes on ingredients: I did use store-bought chicken broth, mainly because Trader Joe’s makes a nice low-sodium,  free-range chicken broth that I’m fond of. They also sell cubed Italian pancetta which I used for this recipe. And for potatoes, I bought purple potatoes to add a bit of color. But play around with any ingredients you have at home. You could also easily make this soup vegetarian by omitting the pancetta and using vegetable broth.


2 tbsp. olive oil
2 oz. pancetta, chopped
1 cup chopped onions
1 1/4 cups sliced carrots
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped green cabbage
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 qt. Chicken Broth
1/2 cup peeled, diced potato
1 piece Parmesan cheese rind (about 3 inches, square)
3/4 cup spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces (use gluten-free pasta if that's a concern)
3/4 cup chopped plum tomatoes (peeled and seeded)
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (drained and rinsed if using canned)
3/4 cup kidney beans (drained and rinsed if using canned)
1/3 cup Pesto
1/2 tsp. salt, or as needed
1/2 tsp. pepper, or as needed
Freshly ground Parmesan cheese to garnish


Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat melts, 3 to 5 minutes. Do not allow pancetta to burn. Add the cabbage, onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the broth, potatoes, and Parmesan cheese rind. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Don’t overcook. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a small bot of boiling water until tender. Drain. When the vegetables in the soup are tender, add the cooked pasta, tomatoes, chickpeas, and kidney beans. Remove and discard the Parmesan rind. Season the soup to taste with the pesto, salt, and pepper. Serve in heated bowls sprinkled with cheese.


  1. Kasey

    Loving the new look, Megan! And you picked a good day to post a recipe for minestrone ;)

  2. MaryMoh

    I love minetrone soup. It is very warming and filling. Just what I would like to have now for this cold weather. Yours look very delicious.

  3. Dawn Hutchins

    We have been all over some soup in my household lately. My favorites are the brothy type over creamy. The pancetta looks like a nice addition.

  4. Ed Schenk

    I had always look at Minnestone as a meatless soup. I will have to try this.

  5. megang

    Thanks, Kasey and Mary Moh!

    Dawn: If you tend to like brothier soups, I think you'll like this.

    Ed: the pancetta's a really nice touch. That and the parmesan amp up the flavor for sure. Enjoy!

  6. El

    The site looks great. So does the soup!

    1. megang

      Thanks, El! Nice to see a familiar face around the new site.

  7. Maria

    Bookmarking this soup. Lovely photos too!

  8. my spatula

    beautiful! i have 3 parmesan rinds sitting in the fridge waiting to be used up. plus, anything with pancetta involved is A-OK in my book.

  9. Jeb

    The website looks great, Megan! Quick question: did you like the spaghetti in the soup? I've generally made it with shorter cuts of pasta, so I am curious. :)

    1. megang

      To be honest, Jeb: the recipe called for vermicelli and I didn't have any. So I used spaghetti. Next time, I'll use a thinner noodle and cut them in smaller pieces because, great minds think alike, I like it with shorter cuts of pasta, too. Thanks for blog compliments! Awaiting the day when you start one!!!

  10. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    Megan I absolutely LOVE minestrone and this one looks like a particularly excellent one. Bookmarked for future reference!

  11. Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef

    Fabulous new site! I'll have to check out the Sunday Dinner cookbook your recommended. I love your photography!

    1. megang

      Thanks, Kelsey! Yes, I'm sure you'll love that book...

  12. Hélène

    Just found your blog and I like it. You take very nice pictures :)

  13. Samantha

    I've been very interested in making soup! Like your blog very much.

    1. megang

      Thanks for stopping by, Samantha!

  14. Carra young

    Making this soup for dinner today! Quickie question, though.
    Am I incredibly dense? How much cabbage? Thankies!! Xo

    1. megang

      Carra! So sorry to leave you hanging...just saw your comment and DANG, did I forget to mention the cabbage in the recipe. Thanks for pointing that out! I updated the recipe ... should be 1 1/2 cups of green cabbage. Let me know how it turned out.

  15. carra young

    making this now! yay!!

  16. Lynn Murphy

    Welcome home, Megan. This is Lynn from the Walton Inn, snowshoe, and Amtrak trip. You and Sam are great and thank you for sharing your interests, sparkle, and savvy. I just copied down your Butternut Soup recipe.Yummm

    I have a question: I am reluctant to rinse and throw out the broth that is in a can of organic black or kidney beans. All the ingredients are wholesome and when I make beans myself I have the incorporated bean slurry in the pot. Why do recipes always say drain and rinse canned beans before using them in soups?????
    Curious, thanks. -Lynn

    1. megang

      Hi, Lynn!
      What a treat to see a comment here from you. We loved meeting + spending time with you as well. I think the deal with the bean "water" is that it can be salty and when the beans sit in it, can be a bit "funky", so to speak. It certainly won't hurt you at all to eat/use the liquid, but most people drain it away to get rid of any preservatives that may have been used (sounds like this isn't an issue in your case) or extra salt/sodium (which is often the case). It's basically a personal preference thing on flavor, really. I'm also a bit shy of the BPA-lined cans and I always feel like draining the water has to help with that (i.e. I'm not ingesting all the liquid that sat in the can). Hope that helps! xo, Megan

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