Homemade Minestrone Soup ♥ Recipe

Hearty-tasting but low in calories
Today's soup recipe: A light-tasting but hearty soup made with low-calorie, low-carb vegetables. Weight Watchers 1 or 2 points. A low-carb soup when pasta is omitted.

Today's recipe comes with a lesson in Italian, compliments of the food dictionary at Epicurious, a quick source of information about culinary and ingredient terms.

'Minestra' [mih-NAYS-truh] means 'soup' in Italian, most often a soup of medium thickness, frequently with both meat and vegetables.
'Minestrina' means 'little soup,' a thin broth.
'Minestrone' means 'big soup,' a thick vegetable soup containing pasta and sometimes peas or beans, usually topped with grated Parmesan cheese and hearty enough for a complete meal.

That makes my version of minestrone someplace in between. It's hearty but tastes light and has just a few calories. My notes on a recipe card dated 1999 read, 'Excellent! Light! Filling!' And so it is.


Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Time to table: 1 hour
Makes 14 cups

1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a rice wine but broth would work too)
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion
2 leeks, cleaned, cut in half moons (see this photo tutorial about how to clean leeks)
9 cups broth (I used this Homemade Chicken Stock)

4 cups chopped green cabbage
2 cups chopped zucchini
1 small piece of Parmesan rind, optional

3/4 cups tiny pasta

3 cups fresh spinach, stems removed, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil (for anyone with basil on hand, I recommend this, I used winter's less-expensive fresh cilantro)

Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh Parmesan, grated, optional

In a very large pot, heat the wine on MEDIUM HIGH heat while prepping the first vegetables. Add the celery, onion and leek as they're prepped, simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage, zucchini and Parmesan rind, return to a simmer and let cook about 10 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Transfer to bowls, top with freshly grated Parmesan.

This recipes makes a LOT of soup. It doesn't freeze well so you might adjust the quantities for less.
I like to bring the broth to a boil in the microwave while prepping the vegetables, it helps keep everything moving.
By the second day, the pasta tends to suck up all the broth. So if you plan to make ahead and serve the next day, two suggestions. First, stop cooking after the cabbage and zucchini have cooked and refrigerate overnight. The next day, bring the soup to a boil, then proceed. Second, cook the pasta separately and stir into individual servings or what's being rewarmed that day.
If you use the ever-so-tender baby spinach that comes prewashed in bags, be sure to remove the stems before adding to the soup and cook for just a minute.

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I've been wanting to make minestrone since eating it at a friend's house a couple weeks ago, so thanks for the inspiration! Two things my host did that really made it special (though also upped the calories/fat): she mixed a bit of pesto (not sure how much) into the water-based broth, which made it really flavorful. I was trying to figure out what was making it taste sort of sweet, and it turned out she had cooked it with the rinds of the Parmesan! I'm excited to try that little trick... nice excuse to buy expensive cheese but not waste any part of it! :-)

Too funny, you'll be seeing minestrone recipes everywhere, now! I love the pesto idea, in winter I like to make what I call Winter Pesto, which is mostly spinach, just a little basil.

Hi Alanna...keep these healthy soups coming! I just made a 12 cup pot of this...used 4 c homemade smoked turkey broth, 4 c commercial low-sodium beef broth and some water...dreamfields pasta and added a can of cannellini beans...also the optional basil, since I had some on hand...seasoned with fish sauce and hot sauce...I added some tomato paste since my idea of minestrone is not as white as this was before the tomato paste went in...very enthusiastic response from the local audience...have a great 2009...best, stephen

Just wondering if you're following the Vegetarian Soup Challenge on the Weight Watchers Vegetarian Board.

This week we're all making minestrone! :)

Love it. All.


ok, I've had this for lunch for five days running and it is fabulous...when I run out I'm making more...
best, S

Hah! I totally know what you mean about the pasta sucking up all the liquid. I agree with you; it's best to add it to individual servings. Minestrone was a family soup we grew up on in my house, so this post evokes some nostalgia for me. Thanks, Alanna. :)

This recipe sounds yummy! Just found your blog this past week and I'm excited to find so many veggie recipes in 1 place!I'll be back often!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna