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Mar 9, 2011 06:43 PM

Authentic minestrone - it's unbelievable!

In Italy, minestrone soup is pretty much always, a vegetarian soup. When we've traveled in Italy and asked if the minestrone soup is vegetarian, we almost always get a weird look...and then a response that indicates that we've asked a ridiculously stupid question. Try to find a recipe for a vegetarian minestrone soup online. Google it. Search for it on this website or on the Food Network website. Almost always it is not either includes chicken stock, pancetta, or even clams!!! Can anyone steer me to a truly authentic Italian minestrone...the way it's prepared in Italy? Italian minestrone is amazingly flavorful and there is not a meat product anywhere near it!!

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  1. Geesh, when I read your thread title I thought you had a good recipe to share.

    Rather you were in some way trying to fault google, but rather it is your search techniques.
    google search page for "authentic minestrone" {actually I jusy copied and pasted from your title}

    Since I discounted the first returned item, since it was Wiki there is the second:

    Looks EXACTLY like what you said could NOT be found.

    1. I got plenty of results googling "vegetarian minestrone recipe". Also try "vegetarian minestra recipe".

      7 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        Stupidly, I didn't think I had to specify "vegetarian" for minestrone soup! Minestrone in Italy is, almost by definition, a vegetarian soup. Obviously, not so here!

        1. re: josephnl

          I always just replace chicken stock with vegetable stock/broth or water in recipes that are otherwise vegetarian. It really doesn't make a huge difference, IMHO.

          Anyway, I remembered seeing a few recipes in Saveur's Italy editions. I can only find these online:

          A traditional soup with similar ingredients to minestrone:
          And Tuscan Bean Soup (not minestrone, but similar--minus tomatoes):

          Methinks I will have to make that last one sometime soon...

          BTW, I was reading a Mark Bittman ramble about how most "authentic" soups are made by simmering the ingredients for long periods of time in nothing but water. The same going for vegetarian soups. I've done it both ways--with veggie broth and with water--and find the water is perfectly acceptable but most definitely better if you eat the next day. The flavors need time to meld. I would think this would work well with minestrone.

          1. re: josephnl

            That has not been my impression of "authentic" minestrone. I think minestrone is often made with meat stock.

            1. re: visciole

              I think--as with many foods--regional variations will differ.

              I'm sorry to post a Wikipedia article here, but it seems pretty on-par: "Due to its unique origins and the absence of a fixed recipe, minestrone is not particularly similar across Italy... Minestrone ranges from a thick and dense texture with very boiled-down vegetables, to a more brothy soup with large quantities of diced and lightly cooked vegetables that may include meats."


              That, along with the entire "old-school" history of minestrone (in ancient times being solely a vegetarian soup), it seems there really is no one thing that defines it aside from it containings veggies and some sort of legume and/or grain.

              I personally never had a minestrone with any kind of meat in it as a kid unless it came from a can. I'm from a pretty traditional Greek home (yes, I'm aware minestrone is not Greek but mom used to make it with homemade veggie stock) and also noticed that the recipes passed down from my Greek immigrant family were night-and-day different from the recipes of friends or Greek restaurants we visited, usually with only 1 or 2 ingredients being the same. I've since learned it's all regional, and so Greek friends whose ancestors grew up in the same regions as mine make their skordalia, moussaka, souvlaki, yemistes, or even hummus identically down to every spice. Needless to say, we stopped visiting restaurants immediately that didn't agree with our preferences. Greek food prepared differently than I'm used to, even now, is a huge turn-off for me.

              Anyway, my point was that I don't think minestrone in particular suffers at all with the absence of meat or meat stock.

              1. re: josephnl

                Is it a vegetarian soup or a vegetable soup? One focuses on what is not in the soup (meat or meat products), the other on what dominates. Omitting meat because you are too poor is quite different than omitting it because scruples about eating meat. I suspect that in more traditional Italian cooking a strictly meat less soup would be associated with Lent (even more so in Greek culture).

                1. re: josephnl

                  Well, as I noted in my reply I just googled "Authentic Minestrone" and got the real deal. It's your researching that is faulty.

                  And in my replay I DID cite a link that is as authentic as you wanted it. Geesh, simmer down, you're boiling your soup over.

              2. A soup I would call "unbelievable!" is from Marcella Hazan in "Essentials of Classic Italian..."
                It's "Novara's Bean and Vegetable Soup", and does call for beef stock. It's so good I'd be afraid to change it.
                In the same book, her "Minestrone alla Romagnola" also includes meat broth.
                It seems logical that a cook would not waste meat bones, would use them to flavor a mess o' vegetables.

                The wikipedia entry on Minestrone is not uninformative:

                1. my guess is that whatever recipe you use, it's the parmesan rind that's absolutely crucial. that's the umami. maybe that's what was so good about what you had?

                  here's a link to marcella's minestrone--you could replace the beef stock.

                  i'd also try googling minestrone plus the name of whatever city or region you were in. might up your chances of finding a reasonable facsimile.

                  1. The minestrone from the Harry's Bar Cookbook contains meat stock. His is very popular (you can replace the meat stock with your favorite vegetable stock, won't be the same minestrone) but you'll have to hunt down whoever has the cookbook for the recipe. The origins of Minestrone may be vegetarian, but much has changed and you'll find that the stock preparation varies per region.