Warm up this fall/winter with a hearty, flexible, beans and veggie-packed, budget-friendly copycat Olive Garden minestrone soup recipe! This vegetarian pasta soup in tomato broth is ready in under 30 minutes using the stove top, Instant Pot, or Slow Cooker!
Get a taste of restaurant-quality soup in the comfort of your own home (and at a lower cost) with this copycat Olive Garden minestrone soup recipe. It’s surprisingly quick and simple to prepare. And it’s jam-packed with texture, flavor, and nutrients in the form of fiber, plant-based protein, and lots and lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. All thanks to plenty of veggies that you can substitute based on what’s in season and your kitchen.
Even better, you can prepare this as a stovetop, slow cooker, or Instant Pot minestrone with minimal hands-on effort. The simple everyday ingredients will be somehow transformed into something extraordinary. Enjoy it as an appetizer, side, or main, for lots of happy, satisfied tummies around the dinner table (even veggie-weary kids)! Plus, aside from the optional cheese topping, this recipe is 100% vegan, too!
What Is Minestrone Soup
Minestrone soup is an Italian soup chock full of vegetables, beans, and pasta (or rice), in a rich tomato-based broth. Traditionally, minestrone soup recipes include carrot, celery, onion, tomato, and kidney beans (often also with green beans).
In this version, I’ve used a typical Olive Garden minestrone soup recipe combination of the vegetables listed above, plus zucchini and spinach. However, this recipe for minesteone soup is highly versatile. It’s perfect for using whatever vegetables are in season (or need using in your kitchen).
What Is the Difference Between Minestrone Soup and Vegetable Soup
Minestrone soup is essentially a type of hearty vegetable soup. However, as well as vegetables, it’s made with pasta (or rice) and beans to provide extra staying power.
Olive Garden Minestrone Soup Ingredients
What’s in minestrone soup is simple, inexpensive ingredients and pantry staples. This copycat Olive Garden recipe for vegetarian minestrone soup is packed with flavor and texture.
- Pasta: Use any small pasta shapes, like small shell pasta. I.e., conchiglie, rotelle, macaroni, ditalini, orecchiette, elbow, even orzo, etc. Alternatively, use rice for gluten-free soup.
- Olive oil: To sauté the vegetables. For an oil-free method, use a splash of water/stock.
- Vegetable broth: I use homemade, lightly salted vegetable stock. Adjust the amount of added salt based on how salty the stock is.
- Garlic: For a more aromatic soup base. Adjust the amount to taste.
- Vegetables: The veg mix contains a typical aromatic sofrito soup base of onion, carrot, and celery. It also uses zucchini (or summer squash) and spinach (baby leaves; or use kale or collard greens).
- Beans: I use a combination of red kidney beans and white beans (like cannellini beans) for added heartiness, fiber, and protein. You can use canned beans or home-cooked beans. I also often add 1-1.5 cups of green beans (fresh or frozen).
- Tomatoes: You’ll need a combination of high-quality canned diced tomatoes (or passata in a pinch) and tomato paste for depth of flavor in this soup.
- Seasoning: you’ll need Italian seasoning (or you can use individual dried herbs like dried oregano, thyme, etc.). Plus salt and black pepper (to taste).
- To Garnish: (Optional) Some freshly grated vegetarian parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh parsley make for a great garnish to this Italian minestrone soup (Olive Garden style).
What Vegetables Go Well with Olive Garden Minestrone Soup Recipe
This soup pairs well with plenty of veggies based on what’s in season and what you have in your kitchen. You could enjoy this homemade minestrone soup with pasta with:
- Green beans,
- Bell pepper (red),
- Potato (waxy, so they don’t break down in the soup),
- Sweet potatoes,
- Butternut squash,
- Asparagus (perfect for a Spring minestrone),
- Sugar snap peas,
Just keep in mind that different veggies take different times to cook, so add them into the soup incrementally, as I’ve done with the recipe below.
Note that you can use either fresh or frozen vegetables (no need to thaw them first) for this recipe.
How to Make Olive Garden Minestrone Soup
Learn how to make minestrone soup with a few easy steps.
First, wash and chop the vegetables. Dice the onion and carrot and thinly slice the celery. Chop the zucchini into ½-inch half-moons. Try to cut the vegetables the same, so they cook at the same rate.
Also, mince the garlic. Drain and rinse the beans (if using canned).
Next, heat the oil in a large, thick-based soup pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat.
Once hot, stir in the onion and sauté it for 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic to sauté for just 20-30 seconds.
Add the carrots, celery, tomato paste, and seasonings to the large pot. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the veg starts becoming tender. Then add the chopped tomatoes.
It’s okay if the vegetables start to lightly brown/caramelize. This will add even more flavor depth to make the best minestrone soup recipe.
Stir in the vegetable stock and bring the vegetarian minestrone to a soft boil.
Then, add the pasta to the pot. Allow it to cook for about 10 minutes (or however long it takes for slightly al dente pasta).
Alternatively, cook the pasta separately, ready to add to the minestrone soup olive garden style when serving. For the best flavor, I recommend cooking it in vegetable stock.
Finally, add the zucchini and beans. Simmer the soup for just 5 minutes, adding the spinach in the last 2-3 minutes. Give it a final taste to adjust the seasonings if needed.
When serving the soup, optionally add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and some finely chopped parsley. Enjoy!
Instant Pot Minestrone Soup
The Instant Pot minestrone soup recipe is ready in as little as 20-25 minutes.
- Start by using the Instant Pot sauté function to sauté the vegetables (following steps 1-4 in the recipe).
- Then, add the remaining ingredients (except the spinach), cover, and cook on MANUAL high pressure for 6 minutes.
Alternatively, cook the pasta separately on the stovetop to avoid overly mushy pasta.
- Then carefully release the quick-release pressure valve and open the lid. Stir in the spinach, and enjoy.
Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup
For soup that slowly cooks throughout the day, largely hands-off (except right at the end), give this crockpot minestrone soup a try.
- Follow steps 1-4 above, saute the ingredients on the stovetop.
- Then transfer those to a crockpot with the remaining ingredients (except the pasta and spinach). Cook on LOW for 5-6 hours or HIGH for 2-3 hours until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the pasta 30 minutes before serving (it will be very soft this way). OR cook it separately to add when serving.
Add extra broth if it reduces too much while cooking. Once ready, use the “keep warm” setting if you don’t plan to enjoy the soup immediately.
How to Serve Minestrone Soup
This Olive Garden minestrone soup recipe is already a hearty soup, so there technically isn’t a need for any side. However, you could serve a bowl with:
- Bread: crusty loaf, garlic bread, naan, focaccia, etc. Optionally with butter.
- Sandwiches: A grilled cheese sandwich or other simple sandwiches for dipping.
- Side salad: A simple green salad like a garden salad, etc.
- For extra protein: add some sausages, grilled chicken, or roast beef.
You could optionally garnish the veggie minestrone soup with some homemade garlic croutons. Alternatively, serve it with breadsticks (Olive Garden style).
Can You Freeze Minestrone Soup?
It’s best to freeze the vegetarian minestrone minus the pasta. Pasta becomes very mushy upon thawing. Otherwise, this soup is wonderful to freeze, even if the veggies soften upon thawing.
Allow it to cool. Then store the vegetable minestrone soup in freezer-safe containers (with headspace) or Ziplock bags (with excess air squeezed out) for 3 months. Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating, adding fresh pasta.
If even after simmering, the tomato flavors are overly acidic, I recommend adding a pinch of sugar to balance the flavor.
Cook the pasta separately, stirring it into the soup when serving it.
Hopefully, that shouldn’t be an issue with this Olive Garden copycat recipe. However, there are several ways to boost this recipe with subtle yet delicious depth. Use lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, and/or fresh herbs.
If you aren’t vegetarian, you could also add a parmesan rind to the minestrone Italian soup with pasta while it simmers.
More Comforting Vegetarian Soup Recipes
You might also enjoy this collection of 20+ winter soup recipes!
If you try this minestrone soup recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Copycat Olive Garden Minestrone Soup
- 3.9 oz small pasta 3/4 cup. I.e., conchiglie,rotelle, macaroni, ditalini, orecchiette, elbow, even orzo, etc
- 14 oz chopped tomatoes 1 can
- 8.1 oz red kidney beans 1 can; Great Northern beans, borlotti beans, or even chickpeas could be used as substitutes
- 7.2 oz white beans 1 can
- 6 oz zucchini 1 medium
- 5.3 oz carrots 2 medium
- 8.1 oz onion 1 large
- 4.7 oz celery 2 stalks
- 2.5 oz tomato paste 1/4 cup
- 1.5 oz spinach 1 cup
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 0.3 oz garlic 1 large clove
- 0.4 oz parsley 1 handful
- 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Wash and chop the vegetables. Dice the onion and carrot. Thinly slice the celery. Chop the zucchini (into ½-inch half-moons). Mince the garlic. Drain and rinse the beans (if using canned).Try to cut the veggies the same size so they cook at the same rate. Using a mandoline will help to speed up this step.
- Heat the oil in a large, thick-based soup pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat.
- Once hot, stir in the onion and sauté it for 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic to sauté for just 20-30 seconds.
- Add the carrots, celery, tomato paste, and seasonings to the large pot. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the veg starts becoming tender. Then add the chopped tomatoes.It’s okay if the vegetables start to lightly brown/caramelize, as this will add even more flavor depth to make the best minestrone soup recipe.
- Stir in the vegetable stock and bring the vegetarian minestrone to a soft boil.
- Add the pasta to the pot, and allow it to cook for about 10 minutes (or however long it takes for slightly al dente pasta).Alternatively, cook the pasta separately, ready to add to the olive garden minestrone soup when serving. For the best flavor, I recommend cooking it in vegetable stock.
- Add the zucchini and beans. Simmer the soup for just 5 minutes and add the spinach in the last 2-3 minutes. Give it a final taste to adjust the seasonings if needed.When serving the vegetarian pasta soup, optionally enjoy it with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and some finely chopped parsley. Enjoy!
Instant Pot and Slow Cooker Methods
- Check the blog post for these methods.
How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat
- Make ahead: Soup always tastes better on day two, so feel free to prepare it a day in advance. Alternatively, make things easier on the day by chopping the veggies a day in advance and storing them in airtight containers in the fridge.Store: Allow the soup to cool and then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. The pasta will further soften over time and soak up the broth, so you may prefer to store it separately until reheating.Reheat: Use either the stovetop (over medium heat) or microwave (2-3 minutes, stirring halfway). More stock may be necessary, especially if you store it with the pasta.Freeze: It's best to freeze the vegetarian minestrone minus the pasta, which will become very mushy upon thawing. Otherwise, this soup is wonderful to freeze, even if the veggies soften upon thawing. Allow it to cool, then store it in freezer-safe containers (with headspace) or Ziplock bags (with excess air squeezed out) for 3 months. Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating, adding fresh pasta.
- Adjust the consistency: Blend a portion of the beans and stock for a thicker soup. For a thinner version, add more stock.
- For a silkier soup: Add an extra 1-2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.
- Serve in warm bowls: The soup will stay warm for longer. You can heat them in the microwave or oven.
- Cut veg evenly: If you cut even-sized pieces, they’ll cook at the same rate.
- Cook the pasta until al dente: Usually about 2 minutes less than instructed on the packaging, as it will continue to cook and soften in the soup.
- Cooking the pasta in vs. adding it after: Cooking the pasta separately and then adding it to the broth before serving makes for a thinner soup, less mushy pasta, and more broth (the pasta will soak it up as it sits). Alternatively, cooking it directly in the minestrone soup is less effort and leads to a heartier, thicker soup (thanks to the pasta starches). The results you prefer are up to you!
- The vegetables: You can use either fresh or frozen vegetables (no need to thaw them first) for this soup recipe.
- Chili: Chopped and de-seeded to add some heat. Alternatively, add some chili flakes or chili powder.
- Pesto: For depth, add a spoonful of sun-dried tomato or red pepper pesto. Green pesto (like this regular Italian pesto or vegan pistachio pesto) works in Spring minestrone or as a garnish when serving.
- Bay leaves: Add 2 bay leaves for added depth.
- White wine: A large splash of dry white wine will add subtle yet delicious depth.
- Smoked paprika: For a subtle smokiness.
- Lemon juice: Add a squeeze just before serving for added brightness.