Old School Minestrone Soup

We have now had our first snow.  Always dubious of newscaster’s predictions, I was mindful of the possible 12 inches but not wed to it by far.  There have been many an occasion we’ve been promised to wake up to snow only to be greeted by the dry asphalt we bid goodnight hours prior.  This time Mother Nature delivered.  I woke to 11 inches of snow and enjoyed a few more from the light sprinkling throughout the rest of yesterday.  After pulling out the snow blower (purchased after a Mac Daddy storm deposited 32 inches in my driveway years ago and hardly ever needed since) I did what any girl worth her salt would do; made soup.  From scratch.


I was recently digging through and old recipe folder I seldom use now favoring cookbooks or the internet.  I came upon a soup in my mother’s hand writing that instantly took be back to my childhood when she’d make a massive batch and freeze plastic tubs of it pulling them out all winter long.  Minestrone Soup.  I simply loved it.  Full of beans, pasta, salted pork and seasonal vegetables in a savory broth topped with Parmesan cheese; seemed perfect for the occasion.  It makes a large batch with leftovers for freezing.
The soup is a bit of a labor of love for the time duration.  This version is made with dried beans that are not presoaked.  Each is boiled differently though at the same time.  It is about a 3 hours cooking process in addition to any vegetable preparation.  The original recipe cited rough suggestions for vegetable additions which I’ve specified more clearly.  I found it great way to use the end of my home garden and produce from my farm CSA as well.  You can definitely substitute canned (home or purchased) tomatoes or puree.  I like my soup full of chopped vegetables; feel free to use a bit less if that’s not to your liking or experiment with adding more water and puree for more broth.


One thing that was not in the original recipe was the addition of the kombu seaweed.  This is a trick I learned when cooking with beans.  Adding a strip of the seaweed does not alter the flavor but does improve the ‘digestive distress’ beans can cause.  The seaweed is removed before serving.
Yield:  8-10 quarts
Cooking time: 2 ½ – 3 hours
·         3 ounces dry barley* (see note below if gluten free)
·         5 ounces dried split peas
·         5 ounces dried lima beans
·         5 ounces dried red beans
·         6 stalks celery, chopped
·         6 Swiss chard leaves, chopped
·         ¼ small head cabbage, shredded
·         1 leek, chopped
·         1 strip Kombu seaweed
·         5 ounces salt pork, finely chopped
·         1 medium onion, chopped
·         1 garlic clove, minced
·         1 ½ cup tomato puree
·         2 cups tomatoes, diced
·         2 tablespoons salt
·         1 teaspoon pepper
·         2 tablespoons dried basil
·         1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
·         1 medium zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces or sliced
·         1 medium yellow squash, cut into bite-sized pieces or sliced
·         3 ounces uncooked macaroni noodles (I use Tinkyada gluten free brown rice Elbow pasta)
·         Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
*Gluten free adaptation:  For barley, substitute an additional ounce for each the split peas, lima beans and red beans OR use rice instead.  See my note above on gluten free pasta choice.
1.  Do the following at the same time:
a.  Rinse/drain the split peas and barley.  Place in a medium sauce pan with 2 quarts water and bring to a boil.  Boil for one hour.  Drain.
b. Rinse lima beans.  Place in a medium sauce pan with 5 cups water and bring to a boil.  Boil for one hour then mash.  Note: the water should be almost gone when cooking is done.  If you find you need to add more water, do so one cup at a time so there is not too much water when boiling is complete.
c. Rinse red beans.  Place in a medium sauce pan with 7 cups water and bring to a boil.  Boil for one hour and 15 minutes.  (See note for lima beans about adding more water if needed).  Drain and set aside.
2.  In a large stock pot add split peas, barley (or rice if using that), celery, chard, cabbage, kombu seaweed and leek with 5 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer over low heat.  You will begin timing once the next step is added.
3.  In a large frying pan on medium-high heat combine salt pork, onion and garlic stirring frequently until browned (10-15 minutes).  Add tomato puree, tomatoes.  Cook a few minutes to combine and then add to the stock pot.  Add red beans.  Simmer 30 minutes from time of adding the pork/tomato ingredients
4.  Add mashed lima beans, salt, pepper, dry basil to stock pot.  Cook for an additional 30 minutes.
5.  Add the vegetables and cook an additional 30 minutes.
6.  In parallel to step 5, cook macaroni in 6 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes.  Drain and add to stock pot.  Mix in with the rest of the soup, cook 5 minutes and serve.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.



  1. says

    The soup and the snow sound wonderful. Here in south Louisiana we will be in the 80s today. More like salad weather than soup. Hopefully soon I will have a day to make your soup.

  2. says

    I would have loved being at home yesterday making soup. I even looked up my favorite recipe of ministrone, from a restaurant in Oregon and longed for it to be simmering on my stove. And yes, love those frozen tubs for leftovers. As always great photos Toni. Have to make minestrone SOON!

  3. says

    Aww, I miss Colorado snow!
    Despite the un-snowy weather here in CA, I've been in the mood for soup. Basic minestrone with lots of veggies sounds perfect right now.

  4. says

    The perfect thing to warm up with after all that snow. You have us beat on the snow front though. We've only had a small sprinkling yet. It's a coming though!

  5. says

    Toni, i loved and loved this post of yours because you've truly transferred your labor of love in a most tactile way. this recipe is a keeper. it would be a shame if i dont flag it.

    loved the way you introduced the soup…”any girl worth her salt”. and that soup and snow pics are rich. kudos!!

  6. says

    This is definitely a soup I will make on our first snow day. I cannot think of a recipe that is more complete than this—beans, grains, veggies, PORK! Great post, as always. Enjoy your first snow fall.

  7. says

    After 6 years in Colorado I requested a snowblower for my birthday. I know sentimental huh, but I just couldn't stand the torture of watching Mr. H and son shoveling our long sidewalk. The relief from the guilt was all the present I needed that year. Now if it snows 1″ he fires her up so we can tell ourselves we are getting our money's worth.

    Your beautiful soup could soothe anyone's guilt or aching body or anything that ails you. I wish I had a pot of this on the stove right now.

  8. says

    Holy cow, no wonder you loved this soup as a child!!!

    Now I finally have a recipe for the bags of red beans I bought (to make those Spam pencil cups a year ago) and I know how to cook them. This is a really stupendous soup recipe. I don't think I've ever seen lima beans used after mashing, but that makes a lot of sense – get the richness of them into the broth. This seems like the ideal soup to make when you have good friends over for a winter dinner – along with some garlic bread and a crispy green salad. Thank you for pulling this gem out of your files and into our kitchens where we can all enjoy it. Thank your mom for us!

  9. Lemon says

    Wow, it's amazing you already have snow. The soups sounds delicious, I very much like minestrone, perfect dish for a cold winter day.

  10. says

    Wow, this is one hearty soup, it looks delicious. I can eat soup like this even in our Florida weather. Stay warm in snowy Colorado. I got married in Copper Mountain many years ago.

  11. says

    Minestrone is the BEST this time of year! My sister made some this weekend, and I was in heaven. This recipe looks LOVELY. Thanks, as always, for posting such quality stuff!


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