When it's cold and chilly outside, smart families turn to soup.

We begin with minestrone, a vegetable and pasta rich Italian soup. I’ve been using this recipe I got from Allrecipes.com for a couple of years now. After trying several recipes, this was the keeper. It was submitted by a user named Jamie and is aptly called Jamie’s Minestrone. This soup and a crusty loaf of bread make a great meal. It tastes a hundred times better than anything you’ll ever get out of a can. With all the fresh vegetables and your ability to control the amount of sodium, it’s a whole lot healthier, too.

I’ve even done this in the crock pot at times so the flavors mingle together all day long, the house smells amazing, and when the kids get home from sports practice on a fall weeknight, it’s just about ready to go.

You should still be able to get most of the fresh vegetables and herbs in this recipe, like the zucchini, baby spinach and basil, from the farmers market or your own backyard garden.

Using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth would turn this into a vegetarian dish and omitting the cheese topping would make it vegan.

Time Estimates

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Minestrone soup


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 5 carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can green beans
  • 2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
  • 3 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup seashell pasta
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese for topping
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and sauté garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add chicken broth, water and tomato sauce, bring to boil, stirring frequently. If desired add red wine at this point. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach leaves, zucchini, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.
  3. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside.
  4. Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Spray with olive oil and serve.

Yield: Makes 6-8 servings

My notes

  • To make this in a large crock pot, sauté the garlic and vegetables as directed in step 1. You can use a sauté pan instead of a large stockpot, though. Then dump sautéed vegetables into the crock pot and add everything that is in step 2. Cook on low 6 – 8 hours. When the soup is done cooking, continue with steps 3 and 4.
  • If you don’t have fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 2 teaspoons dried basil. If I didn’t have those herbs growing in my garden and was going to go to the expense of buying just one of them, I’d go with buying fresh basil and using dried oregano.
  • This makes a huge pot of soup. Share some with an elderly neighbor, your kids’ crossing guard, or someone else’s day you’d like to brighten up.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Seasonal recipe: Minestrone Soup
Delicious and healthy, this soup can be waiting for you at the end of a long work day or after the kids soccer practice.