Minestrone Soup, with Red Kidney Beans, Tomato & Cabbage or Kale

Kidney Beans

Kidney Beans

By Cat, Dec 2009; updated May 2015 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

This week’s issue of a newsletter I receive from my health insurance company has a recipe for Minestrone soup (from the National Institute of Health (1)), which they believe is a healthful version for diabetics because it is “cholesterol-free and full of hearty vegetables.”

While it is ‘cholesterol free’ and ‘full of hearty vegetables,’ it uses a lot of commercial processed foods that are not as healthful and nutritious as the fresh version from your garden or farmers market. And newer research headlines declare that cholesterol is not the demon it was once believed to be.

I have adapted their recipe, replacing processed foods with whole, fresh foods, and preparing them in the most healthful way (such as pre-soaking or sprouting the kidney beans before cooking).

On Ingredients

To ensure all vegetable ingredients are the most nutritious, the original recipe could use minced fresh garlic instead of garlic powder; they could start with dried beans, sprout and then cook them, rather than using canned beans; and they could use fresh instead of frozen peas and green beans. And of course fresh tomatoes or reconstituted dried tomatoes.

I also make my own Tomato Paste rather than using canned, then freeze it in an ice cube tray. Each cube is about 2 Tbsp.

Red Beans must be boiled for 10 minutes (very important, to ensure soft beans, and to destroy a toxin in kidney beans), before reducing to a simmer. See Kidney Beans, Red or White (Cannellini), Cooked for more.

I’ve made all these adjustments to the recipe, and cut it down from 16 servings to 4 servings.

For a non-vegetarian version, you can use beef or chicken broth for all or part of the water, and add tiny meatballs (½ inch diameter or less) before the spaghetti, cooking for about 2 minutes, then add the spaghetti. Or finely diced pancetta, about 1 Tbsp per serving.

Barley option: Fine Cooking.com (2) offers an interesting version of Minestrone using pearl barley instead of spaghetti, and adds fresh rosemary to the mix. They also add 1 square-inch of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind with the barley, and grate the fresh cheese over each serving.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • ¼ cup Red Kidney Beans, Cooked (or mix of beans), drained and rinsed (about 2 Tbsp dried beans)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ⅓ cup chopped red or yellow onion
  • ⅓ cup chopped celery, with leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp homemade Tomato Paste
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley, or more to taste
  • ⅓ cup sliced fresh carrot
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage (mix of red & green is best)
  • diced tomato to make ½ cup
  • ¼ cup green peas
  • ¼ cup green beans, cut into ½” lengths
  • Dash cayenne, to taste
  • 2 ½ – 3 cups water
  • ½ cup broken dried spaghetti, or pearl barley.
  • 1 spring fresh rosemary; leaves removed & crushed (optional)
  • 3-quart soup pot, saucier, saucepan, or Dutch oven


  1. Soak or sprout beans, then cook them according to above instructions, adding the minced garlic to the beans.
  2. Heat olive oil in saucier.
  3. Add onion and celery and saute 5 minutes.
  4. Add cooked beans and all remaining ingredients except spaghetti/barley and mix well.
  5. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 45 minutes or until tender. If using barley, rinse the pearls well, then add to the soup (with 1 sprig of crushed fresh rosemary) during the last 20 minutes.
  6. Add uncooked spaghetti and simmer 2 – 3 minutes only.
  7. Serve! Pass grated Romano or Parmesan cheese to garnish the soup.

Assembly or Serving ideas

  • Serve with a whole grain bread and butter; and garnish with grated Italian cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano.



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