Minestrone Special – Soups and Stews Series #14

Minestrone Special


Minestrone means “Big Soup” to Italians and is more common in Italy that pasta. The ingredients and the way it is prepared can vary from region to region within the country and traditionally is not made from a set recipe. It is typically made with whatever ingredients are at hand – especially fresh, seasonal vegetables. Like many of the best loved foods in the world, minestrone was originally peasant food.

The soup is supposed to be chunky, easy to make, nutritious, and inexpensive. This recipe meets all of those requirements. It also takes a side step and is made with barley instead of pasta. I think you will like it.


  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups green cabbage
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 large celery stalks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • ¼ pound fresh green beans
  • 3 cups water
  • 3½ cups vegetable broth (two 14.5 oz cans)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh basil pesto and freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish


  • Prepare the vegetables and keep them in separate piles or bowls.
    • Slice the cabbage into thin strips (about 1/4 small head of cabbage)
    • Peel the carrots, cut in half length-wise and then into ½” chunks.
    • Cut celery stalks in half length-wise and then into ½” chunks.
    • Peel the onion and cut into ½” slices.
    • Scrub and trim the zucchini – cut into ½” diced pieces.
    • Wash and trim the green beans and cut into ½” pieces (should have about 1 cup).
  • Heat the barley over medium-high heat in a 6-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven. (Pot should have a lid to be used later).
  • Cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasted.
  • Scrape toasted barley into a small bowl and set aside.
  • Add oil to the pot and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Add cabbage, carrots, celery and onions.
  • Stirring occasionally, cook until vegetables are tender and lightly browned (about 8 to 10 minutes).
  • Add garlic and cook 30 seconds more.
  • Stir in barley, water, broth, tomatoes and salt.
  • Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Remove the lid – add zucchini and green beans to the soup.
  • Increase heat to medium-high, cover and continue to cook for 15 minutes more or until all vegetables and barley are tender.
  • Taste test and adjust seasonings to personal preference.
  • Serve in large, warm soup bowls and top with a dollop of fresh pesto and a side dish of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.

NOTE:  Have fun with the ingredients. Feel free to add and change the ingredients to suit your person preferences.


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