The RV Chronicles — Minestrone Soup … On a budget and a time crunch

The best recipes have at least one thing in common — a storied history.

Some of those stories only go back a generation or two, such as my mamaw’s chicken and dumplings. She made her version from the cheapest most readily available ingredients (sometimes squirrel or some other feathered animal stood in for the chicken). She didn’t have the luxury of going to the store and buying dressed yard bird or vegetable shortening. Salt was only an occasional addition. Still, her rendition is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.

Minestrone, with all due respect to my father’s mom, has a much deeper history.

In the English-speaking world, minestrone garnered a basic definition as a thick soup about 150 years ago. Our Italian/Roman friends have a simpler definition (soup), but their recipe has changed dramatically over the centuries.

The original minestrone hardly resembled the stuff folks order in Italian restaurants these days. At the risk of boring all 15 of you with details, the old school concoction was basically a mixture of whatever was available — onions, turnips and lentils. But Rome, being the conquerors that they were, eventually incorporated an expanded variety of veggies. Fast-forward a couple of millennia and now there’s a debate about whether an authentic minestrone should be the sum of leftovers or fresh ingredients.

I prefer a combination … for this weeknight recipe, anyway.

Here at the Jimmy Rockford there’s not much space. The carrots, celery, spinach and thyme in this soup are what remained from other dishes. I have a basil plant outside my door, so that’s a given. And I keep chicken, beef and vegetable stock on hand at all times. (Hey, we all have priorities.)

In about 45 minutes (mostly cooking time), this minestrone will send you away from the table full and happy. You can add meat (sliced Italian sausage works well) if you want to pretend that you’re Roman royalty. You can even cut down the prep time by using pre-chopped/frozen vegetables.

No matter, I think Caesar would approve.

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Weeknight Minestrone Soup

Weeknight Minestrone Soup — Tastes just like Sunday

Weeknight Minestrone Soup — Tastes just like Sunday

5.0 from 4 reviews
Weeknight Minestrone Soup
Weeknight Minestrone Soup — Tastes just like a Sunday
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
  • ½ cup – Carrot, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup – Celery, chopped
  • ¼ cup – Onion, sliced
  • 3 – Garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB – Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups – Vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • 1 – 15 oz can, Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 – 15 oz can, diced tomatoes
  • 2 – Small zucchini, sliced
  • 1 cup – Fresh or frozen green or wax beans, chopped
  • 2 cups – Fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 3 – Thyme sprigs
  • 2 TB – Fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tsp – Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp – Red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp – Kosher salt
  • 1 cup – Small pasta (elbow, cavatelli, cavatappi)
  1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the olive oil over a medium-high setting.
  2. Add carrot and celery and cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add onion, garlic, zucchini and green/wax beans; cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly.
  4. Add tomatoes (and liquid), vegetable stock, thyme, basil, black and red pepper and salt; bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, uncovered.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes, skimming any foam/scum that surfaces.
  6. Add cannellini beans and pasta.
  7. Cook until pasta is al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
  8. Add spinach and turn off heat.
  9. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  10. Serve in bowls, remove thyme stems and discard.
  11. Garnish with additional chopped fresh basil and parmesan cheese if desired.



  1. YUM! Beautiful bowl of soup! It’s finally getting cool enough here to start making some up – this will be on the list. I’ve never made it and am glad to have a recipe!

  2. Kathryn @ anotherfoodieblogger says:

    That’s a damn fine soup Adam! From fan number 14, the soup-aholic. 😀

  3. Kris Swank says:

    Looks really good!
    Going to have to try this like next week when the temps up here are predicted to drop…

  4. I eat so much soup and this looks wonderful. It looks light, not the heavy tomato based broth found in most I have had.
    I am glad to have this recipe. And I always like to hear the history behind those dishes we seem to take for granted.
    Thank you for sharing.
    PS. The Dirty Rice recipe? You know, surprisingly, I did not care for it. I was shocked, can’t figure out why but it just did not make it for me. I am an Epicurious fan most everything I try, I like. I think I need to do a little more homework over some varying recipes to see what I feel was missing. Thank you for sharing though. It was a good starting point for me. And a good learning experience.

    • adamjholland says:

      Glad you like the soup Jill, but sorry you weren’t enamored with the dirty rice suggestion. Please keep me in the know about what you find.

  5. Not only do I love that it is Caesar approved, I love that it tastes like Sunday. I love Sunday!

  6. I’m impressed with what you’ve managed to pull off in the Jimmy Rockford. I have a full sized kitchen but can’t seem to get motivated beyond PB&J. Maybe it’s the oncoming winter….

    • adamjholland says:

      Nothing wrong w/ PB&J. I only wish I’d have found that seasonal pumpkin spice version from that boutique PB maker in NYC.

  7. My Italian mother in law’s version of minestrone soup was whatever was in the fridge that needed to get used up. As a result my husband’s not too keen on any soup no matter what you call it. I usually make up a batch of soup for lunches. With the fall weather now, that and some homemade bread is just right.

    • adamjholland says:

      I think your Italian mother in-law was pretty much spot on in her authenticity. Every family seems to have a version of that clean-the-fridge soup or casserole. And funny thing is, most of us despised it. 😉

  8. I have enjoyed your blog for a couple of years. When you said 15 people reading your blog I had to add my name to your membership. Every thing you write seems to vibrate with me. Keep up the good work.

  9. I love storied recipes and love minestrone. It’s about time to make a pot. The best minestrone I ever had in my life was at an Italian Restaurant in Oregon Wine Country. Nick Italian Cafe. And lo and behold the recipe was featured in Saveur. They swirl a dollop of pesto in the soup just before serving. omg.

    • adamjholland says:

      Saveur pretty much has the market cornered on the best of the best recipes. I finish my canneloni with a pesto drizzle. Wonderful stuff.

  10. I feel the most satisfaction in the kitchen when I can throw together a delicious meal using leftovers and what’s on hand. I think your maw maw was quite inventive and practical with her squirrel dumplins.

    • adamjholland says:

      My mamaw didn’t really have much of a choice, although I agree with you. (My dad despised her cooking. Go figure.)

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