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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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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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