Easy 30-Minute Minestrone Soup (Better-Than-Olive-Garden-Copycat)

I have fond high school and college memories of going to Olive Garden and ordering their minestrone soup which hits the spot on chilly winter days. And of eating a basket of breadsticks by myself.

I wish I could still eat a basket of breadsticks by myself without worry. But I can eat as much of this soup as I want.

Easy 30-Minute Minestrone Soup (Better-Than-Olive-Garden-Copycat) - Homemade is always better and this soup is amazing!! The best minestrone ever! Perfect for busy weeknights and it's healthy!!

And it tastes even better than the Olive Garden version that I remember. Homemade is always best.

It’s hearty, comforting, and filled with so many healthy vegetables including carrots, celery, zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, and sweet Vidalia onions and garlic for flavor. There’s three kinds of beans including red kidney beans, cannellini beans, and green beans. I prefer my soup on the thicker side but you can add more vegetable broth if you prefer it thinner.

Easy 30-Minute Minestrone Soup (Better-Than-Olive-Garden-Copycat) - Homemade is always better and this soup is amazing!! The best minestrone ever! Perfect for busy weeknights and it's healthy!!

There are quite a few herbs used including bay leaves, basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and parsley. I used dried herbs but fresh may be substituted to taste. If you don’t have them all on hand or aren’t as fond of a particular herb, you can probably omit it. Your soup won’t taste exactly like mine, but it’ll be close.

Make sure to salt your soup to taste. I use low-sodium vegetable broth and the canned tomatoes and various beans are all no-salt-added versions. I add bit of salt to my soup so I can control the overall salt level rather than having it be a salty surprise because some canned goods are just loaded with sodium. The saltiness of ingredients varies among brands and everyone’s personal preference for salt varies, so salt to taste.

Easy 30-Minute Minestrone Soup (Better-Than-Olive-Garden-Copycat) - Homemade is always better and this soup is amazing!! The best minestrone ever! Perfect for busy weeknights and it's healthy!!

The recipe makes a ton. It filled up my Dutch oven to the max but I love having leftovers to freeze and I can pull them out on a chilly day.

Easy 30-Minute Minestrone Soup (Better-Than-Olive-Garden-Copycat) - Homemade is always better and this soup is amazing!! The best minestrone ever! Perfect for busy weeknights and it's healthy!!

Print Recipe

Easy 30-Minute Minestrone Soup (Better-Than-Olive-Garden-Copycat)

The soup tastes even better than the Olive Garden version that I remember. Homemade is always best. It's hearty, comforting, and filled with so many healthy vegetables including carrots, celery, zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, and sweet Vidalia onions and garlic for flavor. There's three kinds of beans including red kidney beans, cannellini beans, and green beans. There are quite a few herbs used and if you don’t have them all on hand or aren’t as fond of a particular herb, you can probably omit it. Make sure to salt your soup to taste. The saltiness of ingredients varies among brands and everyone’s personal preference for salt varies, so salt to taste.

Yield: about 12 to 14 cups

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: about 25 minutes

Total Time: about 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups sweet Vidalia or yellow onion, peeled and diced small (about 1 large onion)
  • 1 1/2 cups zucchini, diced small (about 1 small/medium zucchini)
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced thin (about 1 1/2 large carrots)
  • 1 cup celery, sliced thin (about 2 stalks)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 64 ounces (8 cups) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups small macaroni shells or small shell pasta
  • two 14.5-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes (I use no-salt added)
  • one 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I use no-salt added)
  • one 15-ounce can great northern white beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (I use no-salt added)
  • one 15-ounce can cut green beans, drained and rinsed (I use no-salt added)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups fresh spinach, tightly packed
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, optional
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional and for garnishing

Directions:

  1. To a very large Dutch oven or stockpot, add the oil and heat over medium-high heat to warm.
  2. Add the onion, zucchini, carrots, celery, and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Stir intermittently.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add the vegetable broth, macaroni, tomatoes and juice, kidney beans, white beans, green beans, bay leaves, basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, pepper, and bring to a boil. Allow mixture to boil gently for about 15 minutes or until macaroni is cooked through. At any time while making the soup, if the overall liquid level is lower than you like and you prefer more broth, adding a cup or two of water or additional vegetable broth is okay. At the end you will adjust the salt level.
  5. Add the spinach, parsley, optional lemon juice (brightens up the flavor), and boil 1 to 2 minutes, or until spinach and parsley are wilted and vibrant. Taste soup and add salt to taste. I added about 1 tablespoon but this will vary based on how salty the brand of vegetable broth, tomatoes, and the various beans are, and upon personal preference. Make any necessary seasoning adjustments (i.e. more salt, pepper, herbs, etc.), remove the bay leaves, optionally garnish with parmesan, and serve immediately. Soup will keep airtight in the fridge for 5 to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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27 comments

  1. I love a good bowl of soup…nothing beats it. I can’t eat at Olive Garden because everything just tastes way too salty for me but making this soup at home is definitely going to happen…love all those yummy vegs.

    • I was just replying to someone else that the salt in most restaurant soups is crazy through the roof! I really won’t eat soup when I’m out anymore because I drink water like a camel for 2 days!

      If you make this, let me know!

  2. So I’m totally loving all the colors in this soup and how it is packed with veggies! You are so right, it looks hearty and delicious, this one would fill me up for sure. Tis’ the season for soup soup soup and this soup is going on my list of makes ASAP!

  3. It’s been years since I’ve had minestrone and yours looks much more vibrant than a restaurant version! I’ve never made it so this is a great idea for something different. A big pot of hearty soup with leftovers is such a tasty convenience!

    • It had been years since I had it too and when I told my family what I was going to make they were less than excited. My daughter never had had minestrone and other reactions included, ‘I don’t like minestone, never have.’ So I had an uphill battle before I even started it! But everyone turned out to love it and it’s one of my daughter’s new all-time favorites now!

  4. Oh, I LOVE the OG’s Minestrone soup!  And the breadsticks, obviously.  I used to get the soup/salad there all the time.  I got it so often, I’d notice little differences, like sometimes the soup had pasta, sometimes it didn’t.  Sometimes there were kidney and white beans, sometimes just kidney.  At least it is probably homemade, right?  Or maybe they forget to add things?  Who knows.

    I need to make some!

    • Isn’t it funny when you go to certain restaurants so often that you notice what’s missing or different? I’m not surprised that they had some ‘variances’ in their soup.

      Those breadsticks. I could eat those things forever and never get sick of them!

  5. I like thicker soup, too. Olive Garden’s soups are so good, but heavy on the salt–that’s the beauty of cooking it yourself–getting to control your ingredients! Plus, it makes the house smell yummy. If only I had a maid to clean up after me!

    • After you’re done with your maid, send her over to my kitchen. You wouldn’t believe how I can destroy a kitchen after cooking, and then a photo shoot!

      And the salt in most restaurant soups is bonkers! I really won’t eat soup when I’m out anymore because I drink water like a camel for 2 days!

  6. Pass me a spoon please!!  I’ve been craving soup recently, so maybe I’ll whip this up.  Looks delicious!

  7. I LOVE olive garden minestrone!! Yours looks 100000x better :) Can’t wait to make this soup now that it is getting chilly in SF!

  8. This looks so delicious! Perfect for a warm winter meal :)

    Dani | http://www.styledvariety.com

  9. Your photos though…especially second from the top….wow. :)

  10. I miss unlimited carbs without consequences!! This soup is gorgeous. A must make – it was only 50 degrees today!

    • I just came in from running, couldn’t run until later because I was buried in work, and just FROZE. That sea air, so biting and chilly, and I’ve been cranking my heat like crazy!

      Unlimited carbs…oh what I wouldn’t give!

  11. You can save a lot of money and control the salt even better by cooking your own beans. To hot-soak them, just put your dry beans in the pot and cover with boiling water. Put the lid on the pot and let it stand for an hour. If you have a pressure cooker, you can cook dry beans, but I find that the hot-soak method is fine. If you remember you can just soak them in cold water the night before; pour off the soaking water in either case and they’ll be much more digestible and less “fragrant”. Dry beans and split peas can be bought in bulk markets for a fraction of the cost of those cans and jars, and you control the ingredients, freshness and texture–so often I find canned beans mushy.

  12. This soup is gorgeous and so full of yummy veggies – way better than any restaurant version! My husband and I used to go to OG all the time when we were dating and their soup was one of my favorites – along with their breadsticks :) It’s been so cold and rainy where I am so soup is all I’m craving!

  13. Thanks for this great recipe! I left out the spinach and zucchini and it was still incredible! Great flavor and definitely rivals the Olive Garden version. Make a double batch because your family will eat this up in days like mine did!

  14. So colorful and tasty! I’m definitely including this recipe to my household’s dietary list. 

  15. Minestrone soup is my favorite! The colors and all the veggies! I’ve actually never had Olive Garden’s Minestrone soup, but I’m sure yours is much better… and prettier :) 

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