Minestrone primavera is a wonderful bowlful of spring flavors, with lots of green vegetables, white beans and a light stock base. It's easy to make, adaptable to what you have and perfect on cooler spring days.
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Spring is one of those seasons that sometimes feels way too fast (here at least - I didn't necessarily feel that way growing up in the UK). But even so, I always make sure I try to make the most of spring vegetables while I can, and maybe even extend them a little.
This soup is a bit of a celebration of spring vegetables, you could say, but in a pretty simple way. It's a spring twist on the more common minestrone that's more common in autumn, to welcome in the colder weather. While they are a little different from each other, they share some common ingredients and simplicity.
Origins of minestrone
Minestrone can trace it's origins back to ancient Rome where it was more of a porridge with legumes and vegetables. But the version we know today emerged in the 16th century in Lombardy in the north or Italy. It became popular over the next couple centuries, with various different versions evolving.
Most include at least onions, celery, carrots, beans, and tomatoes, with differences beyond that in the vegetables, meats, whether pasta or not, and seasonings. It's a classic example of "cucina povera" that essentially means peasant food, as the ingredients are humble and make the most of odds and ends.
Somehow whatever the variations, all feel recognizable as minestrone, and it's certainly considered a well-loved classic. And this spring take, while less common, is also a wonderful take on the theme.
A seasonal variation
Minestrone primavera translates as spring minestrone, and the adaptations indeed give it a distinctly spring-y feel. It keeps the onion and celery base, then uses bright spring vegetables for the main bulk. Arguable zucchini is more summery but it at least keeps with the green theme.
To add to the lightness, instead of tomato in the broth, it sticks with simple stock, then a little basil to give it a fresh burst of flavor. If you like, you can also add in some pesto, too.
One of the great things about this soup is that it comes together really quickly. You don't need it to cook it for ages to get the flavors to mingle - in fact you want to cook on the lesser side so the vegetables keep their bright green. Though that said, leftovers are really good too and have a little more depth.
Ways to adapt this soup
Along with speed, the other great thing about this is that it is highly adaptable. Here I used peas, asparagus, green beans and zucchini (courgette). However, you can use other vegetables instead or as well. You can wilt in some greens like spinach or chard. Try switching the celery to fennel in the base with the onion.
Top tip: add things in order
You want to find the balance between having everything cooked, and not having things go to mush. As written, I've tried to give a timing that finds this balance.
If you change the vegetables, just bear in mind you want to add them in order that aligns with how long they cook. Beans take slightly longer so go in earlier. Things like the peas only need a brief cook, so go in last (though they can cope with slightly longer, too).
To me, beans are pretty non-negotiable in a minestrone, and cannellini beans are great here. But if you prefer, you could use other relatively small white beans or pinto beans instead.
Pasta is a common addition, if you would like to add some to make it a little heartier, though it works well either way. You can cook the pasta in the broth, or cook it ahead and add in towards the end.
If you do add pasta, make sure you largely cook it before adding the green vegetables so the vegetables don't overcook. Also, small pastas are best, like ditalini or stelline.
Minestrone primavera is a wonderfully bright, light seasonal variation on the classic, that comes together so quickly. It's really easy to adapt, and while it is perfect on a cooler spring day, you might find yourself wanting to make it much more often. It's certainly a bowlful we love in our house.
Try these other soups perfect for spring:
- White asparagus soup (an easy cream soup that makes the lets white asparagus shine)
- Pea and mint soup (another really quick and easy soup, that's light and bright)
- Avgolemono soup (a classic Greek chicken soup, flavored with lemon)
- Plus get more Italian recipes and lunch recipes in the archives.
Minestrone primavera (spring minestrone)
- ¼ onion (¼ onion is around ¼ cup)
- 1 rib celery (small)
- 1 clove garlic small (optional)
- 1 zucchini courgette, small-medium
- 2 oz green beans
- 5 stems asparagus
- 7 ¾ oz cannellini beans (7 ¾oz is half a standard 15.5oz can)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup peas fresh or frozen, as you have
- 3 cups stock chicken or vegetable
- 5 basil leaves approx
- a little parmesan or pecorino to serve
- Finley dice the onion and celery and chop the garlic relatively finely. Cut the zucchini/courgette into a small dice and trim the ends off the green beans and cut into lengths, around 1in/2.5cm. Cut the asparagus in short lengths, separating the tips to add slightly later. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans.
- Warm the olive oil in a medium-large pot/pan over a medium heat and add the onion and celery. Cook around 3-5 minutes until they are softening then add the garlic and cook a minute more.
- Add the zucchini, stir through and cook a minute then add the stock, cannellini beans, green beans and asparagus (apart from the tips). Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat. Cook around 5 minutes then add the asparagus tips and peas (add the peas a minute or two minutes earlier if they are fresh).
- Cook for another 2 - 3 minutes until the vegetables are tender and cooked, but remain green. Roughly tear the basil, stir through, then adjust seasoning, if needed, with a little salt and pepper. Serve, topped with some grated parmesan or pecorino.