The secret to amazing vegetarian minestrone soup is the addition of whey. It adds flavor, richness, and protein to the hearty mix of beans, pasta, and vegetables.
Types of Whey
Just avoid using whey from making non-cultured cheese (like paneer or ricotta). The added lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid will add too much acidity to this soup. If you aren’t sure what type of whey you have, check out this post on types of whey for more information.
Clean out your pantry
Minestrone soup is a perfect clean-out-your-pantry sort of soup. It is one of those hearty soups that can easily be customized for whatever you happen to have in your kitchen. It’s also easy to make it gluten-free or vegan.
Here are a few ways to customize this simple vegetarian minestrone soup:
- Gluten free: This soup is easy to make gluten free, just use gluten-free pasta!
- Vegan: Whey and Parmesan are not necessary to give this soup richness. Feel free to swap it out for your favorite vegetable broth.
- Mix and match vegetables: Pretty much any kind of vegetable will work in this soup. Feel free to use what ever is in season. Kale, chard, zucchini, fennel or root vegetables are all delicious in this soup.
- Beans and more: Traditional minestrone was made with whatever beans and lentils were available. It doesn’t have to be chickpeas. Just use whatever you have on hand.
- Toppings: I love adding extra toppings on this soup. Serve it with a spoonful of pesto, diced kalamata olives or garlic croutons.
Traditional Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
Traditional minestrone soup often is made using leftover whey from cheesemaking. It adds richness and protein to this hearty vegetarian soup.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: Serves 6-8 1x
- Category: Soup
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 3 celery, including leaves, finely diced
- 1/2 head of cabbage, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 5 cups total liquid, a mix of water and whey (or broth, see notes)
- 1 large (28 oz) can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (1 tsp dried)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (1 tsp dried)
- 1 tsp salt, to taste
- 1 cup pasta
- 1 piece of Parmesan rind or 1/4 cup of fresh grated Parmesan
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add vegetables and saute on medium until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add in the water, whey, tomatoes, beans, and herbs. If using Parmesan rind, chop it into strips, and add it to the pot. Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove rosemary sprig and add in the pasta. Simmer until pasta is cooked (about 10 min).
- Season to taste. Serve immediately with a drizzling of olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- The proportion of whey to water will depend on how fresh and sweet the whey is. If you have sweet whey from making a hard cheese, feel free to use the full 5 cups, with no additional water. For acid whey (usually from fresh cheese) use between 1-2 cups of whey. The flavor of whey should be subtle, so don’t overdo it. If you don’t have whey, then use broth. See the section above for more details about the different types of whey.
- The amount of salt required will depend on whether you use broth or whey. Whey may require a bit more salt. Using broth will require less salt. So season lightly, then add salt to taste.
Keywords: whey, simple, gluten free, vegetarian, winter, fall, comfort food, one-pot meal