I am forever making variations on veggie-packed minestrones. Depending on the exact minute between the beginning of the late summer harvest, and well, the middle of winter, the variety of available vegetables can change all the time. Gives me – and you – a good excuse to customize this soup as we like. But you can also follow this exact recipe any time and have a delicious, hearty, veggie-packed soup that gets better overnight.

I’ve left the pasta out of this version, because it tends to soak up the broth when the leftover soup sits overnight. But you can certainly add about ½ cup of a small pasta towards the end of cooking if you like. Or cook the pasta separately (even better) and add it right at the end before serving.

This version has bacon or pancetta in it and some chicken broth. For a vegetarian version, remove the bacon and add mushrooms. I’m not a big fan of boxed vegetable broth, but if you find one you like, use it slightly diluted here. Or use one of the jarred vegetable bases, which tend to be better. Or just use water with a little bit of soy sauce. Obviously homemade vegetable stock would be an option, too! One thing to remember, too, is that most of the flavor in this soup is going to come from the simmering done before the quicker-cooking vegetables are added. You can extend the simmering time, after the tomatoes and greens are added (both will add a lot of flavor to the broth as will a parmigiano rind if you have it) and before you add the other veg, to give a water-based broth more flavor. Keep the soup slightly covered and consider adding an additional cup of water so that the extra simmering time won't reduce your liquid volume too much.

To change up the flavors here, use chorizo instead of bacon and add 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika; finish with cilantro. 

Serves 6 to 8

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces (about 4 slices) bacon, diced, or 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 2 cups medium-diced onions (about 1 large or 2 medium onions, or 10 ounces)
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots (4 or 5 carrots, or 12 ounces)
  • 1 cup diced fennel bulb
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped fresh plum tomatoes (include any juices or seeds that escape, about 7 or 8 plum tomatoes) or canned petite-diced tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh hearty herbs (any combination rosemary, oregano, sage or thyme)
  • 2 cups sliced green cabbage
  • 2 cups stemmed kale, collard greens, green cabbage, Swiss chard or a combination
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 piece of Parmigiano-Regianno rind (if you have one), plus a hunk of Parmigianno to grate for garnish (or ½ cup grated)
  • One 15 1/2-ounce can pinto beans, or other beans of your choice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup diced green beans or okra
  • 1 cup medium-diced zucchini (switch to small-diced peeled butternut squash in the fall)
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, plus more if desired
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced or chopped fresh basil  
  • A hunk of Parmigiano-Regianno to grate for garnish (or ½ cup grated Parmigiano)


1. In a large (5- to 6-quart) Dutch oven or other large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon, onions, carrots, fennel, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are a bit shrunken and starting to brown, and you are scraping browned bits off the bottom of the pan, 10 to 12 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, ground coriander, crushed red pepper, and black pepper and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes (and any accumulated juices) and herbs, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are mostly broken down and have lost some volume (the mixture of veggies will look and feel thicker), 10 to 12 minutes. Add the cabbage, the other greens, the chicken broth, 3 cups of water, the Parmigiano rind (if using), and 1 teaspoon salt.

3. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally (and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon), for 10 minutes. Add the canned beans, the green beans, and the zucchini (or butternut) and cook for five minutes more. Add the corn and cook for one minute.

4. Remove the pot from the heat, remove the Parmigiano rind (if you can find it—otherwise just leave it in!), and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Taste and season with salt or more vinegar if desired. Portion the soup into wide, deep bowls, garnish each with some of the basil (if using) and grate a generous amount of Parmigiano over each serving.