Minestrone Soup with bacon, butternut squash, kale, and white beans is the farmers market turned into a big pot of warm comfort.
The farmers market is my happy place and it continually inspires my cooking for a few reasons.
- Number one, the produce is abundant, affordable, and so fresh it was often picked that morning.
- Number two, because I wind up with so many veggie impulse buys, I have no choice but to work them into our menu.
This minestrone soup is my latest farmers market love story (and this Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup its long-awaited follow-up sequel).
5 Star Review
“I served this soup during a New Year’s Eve dinner party. It’s special enough for a celebration! The leftovers taste great, too.”— Eileen —
When the nights start to get chilly and the days become shorter, nothing seems to warm my soul better than a bowl of healthy minestrone soup.
It’s a recipe I love for its wholesome ingredients and versatility.
There are really no rules when it comes to minestrone.
Use whatever veggies you have on hand, add some beans, cooked pasta, and a little meat (if you so desire), and let it simmer in stock until a rich, hearty soup comes together.
I always serve minestrone soup with a heap of freshly grated Parmesan and toasted baguettes.
Why? Because it’s the right (and delicious) thing to do.
Minestrone vs. Pasta Fagioli
People often wonder what is the difference between pasta fagioli and minestrone soup. These two recipes are similar in terms of taste and ingredients but with a few key differences.
- Minestrone soup isn’t so much a rigid, specific recipe as it is a loose term for Italian vegetable soup with ingredients that change throughout the seasons.
- Pasta fagioli however refers to a more specific soup recipe that puts a greater emphasis on the beans and pasta and less of a focus on the vegetables. You can try my favorite version in my cookbook.
How to Make Minestrone Soup
Loaded with in-season veggies, tender white beans for healthy protein, whole grain noodles for tummy-filling fiber, and a smattering of crisp bacon, minestrone soup is a comforting, quick, budget-friendly meal.
- Bacon. A little smoky, salty bacon goes a long way toward flavoring this soup with a little meaty richness.
- Butternut Squash. Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber, butternut squash lifts this recipe from basic to superfood status.
- Kale. Our second nutritional powerhouse in this healthy minestrone recipe that packs on additional vitamin A, vitamin C, PLUS a hefty dose of vitamin K. (Love kale? Try my Crockpot Tortellini Soup.)
- Cannellini Beans. Contribute creaminess, additional fiber, and a little plant-based protein.
- Pasta. To add some whole grain goodness, I select a whole wheat pasta of a shortcut variety like elbow macaroni, rotini, radiatori, shells, or ditalini.
- Carrots + Celery + Onion. A classic trio of vegetables used in countless soup recipes (like this Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup).
- Garlic. For essential flavor.
- Chopped Tomatoes. Add color, flavor, depth, and acidity.
- Chicken Stock. The liquid base of minestrone.
- Bay Leaf. My secret to ingredient for elevating even the simplest of soup recipes (like this Instant Pot French Onion Soup) to the next level.
- Thyme. For an aromatic woodsy flavor.
- Parmesan. Just a sprinkle (or two…okay three) of freshly grated Parmesan is the perfect finish to this quick minestrone soup.
- Cook the bacon until crisp, then remove.
- Sauté the squash, carrots, celery, and garlic until softened.
- Stir in the kale, tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta, drain, and set aside.
- Add everything to the soup and heat through. Serve topped with Parmesan. ENJOY!
Don’t forget the bread. Here’s how I like to toast up a baguette to serve with this minestrone soup.
- Place rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.
- Brush both sides of each baguette slice with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.
- Cook until golden and toasted, about 6 minutes. Serve warm with soup.
- To Store. Leftovers may be kept in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. Warm on the stovetop or in the microwave until steaming.
- To Freeze. Freeze minestrone soup for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
If you know you are going to have leftovers or are making freezer minestrone soup for a future meal, I recommend:
- Keeping the cooked pasta separate from the soup rather than mixing it into the pot of soup.
- This will prevent the pasta from becoming mushy as it is stored.
- Mix in cooked pasta while reheating the soup.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. For everything from soups, stews, braised meats, and bread.
- Large Pot. For boiling the pasta to al dente perfection.
- Chef’s Knife. Perhaps the single most important asset in any kitchen.
Minestrone soup is my does-it-all winter happy place. What’s yours?
Frequently Asked Questions
I have not made this recipe in a slow cooker before so it would be an experiment if you try it. You would likely want to crisp the bacon on the stovetop before adding the ingredients to the slow cooker. I would also wait to add the pasta until the final 20-30 minutes of cooking, OR for best results, cook separately on the stovetop. If you try using this recipe for a crockpot minestrone soup, I would love to hear your results.
Variations of minestrone have been around since Roman times so the exact origin is debated. One common belief is that minestrone is derived from the Italian word “minestra” paired with the suffix one, which roughly translates to big soup.
No. This minestrone recipe, as it is written, is not gluten free. You may make a gluten free minestrone by omitting the pasta from the recipe and serving it instead with slices of your favorite toasted gluten free bread. Or, you can cook gluten free pasta noodles separately and stir them in at the end. I would also recommend checking the label of your canned beans and chicken stock for gluten-containing or wheat-based additives.
- 4 ounces bacon 1/2-inch diced (4-5 slices)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus extra for toasting the bread and serving
- 3 cups butternut squash 1/2-inch diced & peeled (about 1 pound)
- 2 cups carrots 1/2-inch diced (4 carrots)
- 2 cups celery 1/2-inch diced (3 stalks)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion about 1 medium
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic 4 cloves
- 1 pound kale stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
- 28 ounces canned chopped tomatoes
- 6 to 8 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt plus additional as needed (depending upon the saltiness of the stock)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups cooked whole wheat small pasta such as elbow (about 1 cup dry)
- 1 can cannellini beans (14 ounces) drained and rinsed
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
- Baguette cut into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices
- In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-low, cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from pan and place in between two paper towels set atop a dinner plate. Blot lightly and set aside. Drain most of the excess fat from the Dutch oven.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, squash, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sauté over medium heat, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add the kale in batches as it fits in the pot, stirring so that it cooks down. Once the kale has slightly wilted, add the tomatoes, 6 cups chicken stock, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
- Once the soup has simmered and the vegetables are soft, discard the bay leaf. Add the beans, cooked pasta, and reserved bacon and heat through. The soup should be fairly thick, but add additional chicken stock as needed. Serve hot drizzled with olive oil and topped with Parmesan cheese.
- To toast baguette: Place rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Brush both sides of each baguette slice with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Cook until golden and toasted, about 6 minutes. Serve warm with soup.
- TIME-SAVING TIP: Readers have reported success using frozen pre-cubed butternut squash.
- TO STORE: Leftovers may be kept in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze minestrone soup for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- TO REHEAT: Warm on the stovetop or in the microwave until steaming.
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