Sunday Minestrone

Let me just start by saying this recipe is not a 30-Minute Meal. Nor is it a One Pot Wonder, a Five Ingredient Dinner, a Fix-it-and-Forget-it Dish or any of the other cute little titles dished up daily in magazines, cookbooks, and, um, blogs exactly like this one. This minestrone, which Pilar first introduced me to in 2004, is not cute. It is messy and demanding and complicated. It involves forethought — you must soak the beans overnight. It involves rinsing and draining and mincing and chopping. It involves immersion blenders and strainers and Dutch Ovens and saucepans. And it involves time. A lot of time. The kind of time you once had on a Sunday afternoon before you had kids to shuttle to birthday parties or basketball games or before you started getting roped into marathon sessions of Monopoly. Which, if you are a certain kind of cook, is what makes the resulting freaking crazy delicious soup all the more special. Because yes, you must spend your entire afternoon in the kitchen making it, but…you get to spend your entire afternoon in the kitchen making it.

Tuscan Minestrone
Adapted from The Fine Art of Italian Cooking
, Giuliano Bugialli

8 ounces dried cannellini beans
1 slice prosciutto or pancetta (vegetarians & vegans: this can be omitted)
1 large red onion, minced
1 celery rib, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup Italian parsley
½ cup olive oil
½ small head Savoy cabbage, chopped
1 ½ bunches kale, cleaned and chopped into small pieces
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small squares
1 cup canned tomatoes, drained and seeded
1 small bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Soak the dried beans overnight in a bowl of cold water. The next day, drain the beans and cook them in a large pot with 2 quarts of salted water and the prosciutto or pancetta. As the beans absorb water, keep adding enough hot water to maintain about 2 quarts of liquid at the end of the cooking time. Cook for one hour, then let sit on stovetop in pot.

Saute onion, celery, garlic, carrot, parsley, salt and pepper in the olive oil in a Dutch Oven or large stockpot for about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the cabbage, kale, and potato to the stockpot. Then add tomatoes, smushing them with your hands as you drop them in the pot. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, adding a little bean liquid every now and then if it’s looking dry. Then add Swiss chard.

Remove the prosciutto from the beans. Scoop out about 1 cup of beans with a strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. With a handheld  mixer, blend the remaining beans in their pot, then pour bean puree into the stockpot with vegetables, stirring to combine. Simmer together for about 15 minutes more until heated through. When you are ready to serve, add the reserved whole beans. Add salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with crusty bread, freshly grated Parmesan and a healthy drizzle of good quality olive oil.

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Oh my GOD this looks amazing. I cannot wait for a free afternoon to try this. Because I am exactly the kind of person who loves spending an afternoon in the kitchen cooking something that makes my whole house smell fantastic.


I love that last sentence. I love, love, love spending an afternoon in the kitchen whipping up something tasty. What a great blog even tho I don’t have little ones at home. Thanks!


MommyLisa – Yes, of course. This version you’re looking at was made with a yellow (I didn’t have a red) and it was just fine — if slightly less colorful. Enjoy.


How many does this serve? I have to feed 7 adults and two kids this week, and this sounds perfect for a cozy winter meal!


I’d do about 30% more of everything if you want to serve that number. This is about 4 grown-up portions and 4 kid portions.


I need a soup for a dinner party next week. I’m looking for recipes I do the day before. Do you think I could make this a day ahead of time and heat to serve to the next day? How do you think the flavor, texture would hold up? Thanks!


Karen: Yes, definitely you can make this the day before. I always have so much leftover and freeze it in individual portion baggies. It thaws beautifully and can be tossed with fresh pasta if you don’t feel like having it as soup. But if you are making the soup the day before, I wouldn’t bother freezing. Just reheat. ENJOY!

Marylou Spencer

Karen: Yes, definitely you can make this the day before. I always have so much leftover and freeze it in individual portion baggies. It thaws beautifully and can be tossed with fresh pasta if you don’t feel like having it as soup. But if you are making the soup the day before, I wouldn’t bother freezing. Just reheat. ENJOY!

Erin Joyce

Wondering about soup quality and freezing. If I can spare an entire day in the kitchen slaving over this amazing looking soup how many servings would I get and should I just double it because I will want it all the time? Also how oes it hold up freezer wise?
Love the advanced recipe search!


Yes, Erin. It freezes beautifully. Once thawed, it also works beautifully mixed into pasta. I usually have to thin it out if I want to thaw for soup. But yes, totally worth the effort. I think I will make some this weekend myself!


I am a newsletter subscriber. Do I win the Baked Better Bread Prize?
And also, I think I’ll definitely be making this soup this weekend. I’ve been longing for a good minestrone and my only wonderful version is based on spring vegetables. You can find that at Elise’s site, Simply Recipes. It’s out. of. this. world.


Yum! I am going to try this before it gets too warm to want soup anymore 🙂

I am a newsletter subscriber. Do I win the Baked Better Bread Prize?


Jenny, I just finished reading your book cover to cover. It was more satisfying than any novel I’ve read, and even though I would say I’m already pretty good about family dinner, it inspired me to be even better and to actually start planning ahead (I have your chicken curry and black bean burritos on the menu for this week!). I was really hoping that this minestrone recipe would be in the book after hearing you rave about it, so I am really glad to see it on your blog! I can’t wait to make it, as well as the hundred or so other recipes that I bookmarked in your book (my bf remarked that I was wasting Post-Its because I had put one on literally EVERY page). Thanks for the book and thanks for the blog!


This soup was so tasty! Not a big minestrone fan because it often tastes so stewy and the tomato base seems to dull the taste of everything else in the pot. But this recipe takes it to a new level of yum. The soup textures and tastes are just delicious. New to your website and am delighted to read your posts.


It certainly did look like a one pot quickie dish in a glance. However upon running through the post, its a bit of time required but certainly worth the efforts. Its a comfort dish and nutritious too. Worth the efforts!

Darby Bayly

I was so excited to try this last Sunday. In the end I have eaten it all but it was not what I had expected. It’s funny really because it may just be a regional difference issue. This recipe calls for 1 1/2 bunches of kale but gives no indication as to how much that really is. In Ontario, a bunch of kale is enormous, even after it has been stemmed and cleaned. So long story short, even though I followed the instructions to the letter I ended up with a giant pot of minestrone flavoured kale-mash. It was funny…and super duper good for us 🙂 But not a soup to be sure.

The Steady Table

I made this, finally, after saving up CSA veggies for this specific purpose, for a few weeks. Loved it! Thank you for making it seem like more work than it really was. I was pleasantly surprised when it only took a few hours, rather than all day. Thanks again!


I made this soup because it looked so good in the picture. I *love* soup. We eat it at least once/week on the winter. This one was great, and really didn’t take me as long as you described. I have a friend who’s had a lot of health problems recently. I made a double batch of this and gave her half. She has a lot of trouble asking for help, but she asked me to make her another batch she loved it so much. She raved and raved. The only change I made was to substitute (local, pasture-raised) bacon fat for the olive oil. This soup is in the rotation!


I’d like to make this today which means I don’t have time to soak the beans overnight. Can this be made with canned cannellini beans? If so, would the steps at the beginning of the recipe change?


Am making this tomorrow. I have a bag of already torn and prepared kale — how much of the prepared Kale should I use to equal “1 1/2 bunches”?


Would it be possible to make this recipe with canned northern beans? If so, how would that change the initial step of cooking the beans with prosciutto, if at all? Hoping to feed two adults over a Sunday/Monday stretch of early December holiday activities. Yay for meals you can make slowly on a Sunday and reheat to save your sanity on a Monday.