Pesto Minestrone – This gorgeous, healthy vegetable soup is the perfect thing to warm and fill you without weighing you down. (vegan and gluten free)
I’ve been in the mood for soup. As a food blogger, I’m often in a weird place time-wise. Sometimes, it’s 90+ degrees and I’m photographing Thanksgiving recipes, sometimes it’s cold and rainy but I’m testing popsicle ideas. Everyone might be starting to think about Halloween costumes when I’m testing Christmas cookies. But every once in a while, I hit things just right. The seasons are changing and soup can finally be on the menu!
Minestrone is one of my favorite cold-weather dinners! This pesto minestrone was inspired by one I had at a local restaurant a few years ago that I couldn’t stop thinking about. The restaurant was crowded and only patio seating was available, but the night was cold and crisp and a steaming bowl of pesto minestrone soup was PERFECT.
Cozy and loaded with veggies, this nourishing vegetable soup is perfect this time of year. It makes terrific meal-prepped lunches on a busy week or a warming dinner when you need something healthy and light.
A few simple flavor tricks make elevate the flavor and make this pesto minestrone one of those soups you’ll want to add to your regular rotation.
Here’s all you need to get started…
Here’s What You Need To Make Pesto Minestrone Soup:
- Lots Of Veggies! Since pesto minestrone is a vegetable soup, you’ll need plenty of veggies! We use a blend of onion, carrots, celery, potatoes, zucchini, green beans, and tomatoes but you can definitely mix and match based on what’s in season or needs to be used in your refrigerator.
- Some Plant-Based Protein. Next, we fill the soup out a bit with some beans. Minestrone often uses white beans, kidney beans, or a mix. Today I often make our pesto minestrone with butter beans, but other white beans like white kidney beans, great northern beans, or navy beans work well! Or, you can use regular red kidney beans. Whatever sounds good!
- Flavor Boosts. To really level up the flavor of this vegetable soup, I add a few powerful flavor punches. First is some sun-dried tomatoes. I love their deep, rich flavor! Next is some pesto. You can use store-bought pesto or homemade pesto (ours is dairy-free!). Pesto has a gorgeous concentrated flavor that brightens up every bite of this minestrone recipe. Then, you’ll use some garlic. If you’re under the weather (or just love garlic!), feel free to add an extra clove. Otherwise, I find the balance of one clove of garlic + the pesto + sun-dried tomatoes is just right.
- Some Pasta (Gluten-Free, If Needed). Many minestrone recipes call for some small pasta. This is another great way to fill the soup out a bit. Ditalini, pastina, or small shapes like elbow macaroni or mini shells can work well, too! For gluten-free pasta, we like gluten-free ditalini or Jovial’s gluten-free macaroni pasta or mini shells.
- Broth & Water. To carry everything and pull the flavors together, you’ll need a mix of broth and water. If you’re keeping your meal plant-based, some good-quality vegetable broth (we like Imagine brand) will do the job. Otherwise, you can feel free to use chicken broth or bone broth if you like!
More Veggies and Mix-Ins To Try In Pesto Minestrone:
Our base recipe is full of flavor and veggie goodness, but if you’re ready to play around with the recipe, here are some of our favorite vegetables and mix-ins to add to this pesto minestrone recipe:
Grilled Chicken. The restaurant I based my recipe on offers the option to add grilled chicken. I sometimes do when I eat there and the flavor is DELICIOUS. I love the slightly smoky note the chicken can add. It can be a great way to add some extra protein if you’re not vegan or vegetarian. (Obviously leftover poached, roasted or rotisserie chicken would also work!)
Spinach, Kale, or Greens. Add another layer of nutrients by stirring some spinach, kale or greens into the soup during the last few minutes of cooking. The greens will wilt and shrink down, adding lots of nutrients without taking over the soup.
Shredded Cabbage. Much like adding greens, this is another great way to fill the soup out a bit more. I usually add the cabbage along with the other vegges (rather than at the end of the cook time like you would with spinach).
Diced Bell Pepper. If I have one in my fridge, I’ll often add 1/2-1 diced bell pepper. They fit right in!
Extra Beans. For a plant-based protein power-up (try saying that 10x fast!), add another can of drained, rinsed beans. Kidney beans or white beans work best!
Tips, Tricks & Frequently Asked Questions For Pesto Minestrone:
Try Adding A Little Protein. Add a little protein with an extra can of beans (like kidney beans), Italian sausage, or grilled chicken. It’s all delicious.
Need A Great Soup Pot? We love this affordable Dutch oven/soup pot. It gorgeous, functional, and works like a charm for roasts, stews, soups, chili, baked beans, pasta sauces, and so much more.
Do You Cook Pasta Separately For Minestrone or Cook It In The Soup? I recommend cooking the pasta separately, so you don’t make the soup overly starchy and don’t overcook the pasta. Cooking the soup and pasta separately means your pasta can be cooked to a perfect al dente, while the veggies can get nice and tender.
Pick Your Pesto. I love this dairy (and nut free) pesto option. It’s fabulous. You can absolutely use your favorite store-bought pesto!
Can You Freeze Minestrone? Yes! If you plan to freeze it, I recommend not adding the pasta until you thaw and reheat it. That’ll preserve the texture of the pasta. If you don’t mind softer pasta, feel free to add it before you freeze!
What To Serve With Minestrone:
So what goes well with minestrone? Turn your pesto minestrone into a full meal by serving it with:
- Gluten-Free Rosemary Focaccia (cook it in an 8×8” pan for thicker slices!)
- Bread, rolls, or toast – gluten-free, as needed!
- Grilled Cheese or Grilled Sandwiches/Panini
- A Fresh Green Side Salad
- Fresh Fruit, like grapes or apple slices.