Winter Minestrone Soup with Garlic Bruschetta

Declaring favorites is a tricky thing. Without minimizing every other soup recipe on my site, I’d be a little dishonest if I didn’t tell you how this winter minestrone has completely stolen my heart.

It is the very clear winner of soup season so far. That’s not saying the other soups I’ve posted over the last couple months haven’t been terrific. Delicious! Grand! They have been all those things but this one is special.

And in the interest of keeping it special, I must implore you to skip neither the garlic bruschetta (basically as easy as toasting bread so don’t ditch it) nor the pesto (it takes this soup up a couple notches).

Those two elements add the crazy to the delicious in a big, big way. And while I’m being bossy (it’s one of my few talents), let me add that the bacon should be up there in non-negotiables also.

Filled with all the things that make minestrone its own universe, hearty vegetables + beans + tender pasta swim in a light tomato broth while the aforementioned specialties are what make you hide the leftovers in the back of the fridge pretending it all got eaten up (you sneaky little devil, you).

My corner of Idaho has been decidedly wimpy on the winter/snow front this year.

My kids and I are the only ones in a 100-mile radius bummed about this, as we’re reminded daily by friends, but I’ll be hanging on to soup season as long as possible just for this tasty minestrone…even if that means sitting by the air conditioning vents while slurping this down.

Winter Minestrone Soup with Garlic Bruschetta

What To Serve
You’ve already got the garlic bruschetta going on so keep it simple with either sliced apples and/or a pretty green salad (this spinach salad would be an excellent choice)

One Year Ago: Beef and Sweet Potato Stew with Corn and Green Chiles {Slow Cooker}
Two Years Ago: Butternut Squash and Coconut Curry Soup with Shrimp and Rice Noodles
Three Years Ago: Mosaic Heart Jello Jigglers

Winter Minestrone Soup with Garlic Bruschetta

Yield: Serves 6-8

Winter Minestrone Soup with Garlic Bruschetta


    Garlic Bruschetta:
  • 1 crusty baguette (or this Rustic Crusty bread shaped into thinner loaves or slices cut in half)
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half lengthwise (or sub the olive oil and garlic for a garlic-infused olive oil)
  • Minestrone:
  • 6 ounces bacon or turkey bacon, chopped (about 6 slices)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow or white onions
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots (about 3-4 carrots)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery (about 5-6 stalks)
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large can (28-ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup small pasta, like ditalini or small shells or elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 8 to 10 ounces chopped, fresh baby spinach leaves (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. For the garlic bruschetta, preheat the oven to 425 degrees (you can prepare this while the soup is simmering). Slice the bread into 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush both sides of the bread lightly with olive oil and bake on a parchment -lined baking sheet for 5-6 minutes. Flip and bake for another couple minutes until lightly toasted; watch carefully so it doesn't burn! Immediately, out of the oven, rub the surface of the bread with the cut side of the garlic clove.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon until lightly browned and crispy (if using turkey bacon, you may need to add a bit of oil to the pot). Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate, leaving a bit of bacon grease in the pot (if using turkey bacon, drizzle a little olive oil in the pot after removing the bacon).
  3. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions.
  4. Stir in the beans and pesto (and spinach, if using). Heat through. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed, and add any additional chicken broth if the soup is too thick (FYI: we like it on the thick side).
  5. Serve with the reserved bacon, slices of toasted garlic bruschetta (great for dipping), and freshly grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of the soup.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from this recipe after my cousin, Julianne, emailed me about it (it’s her family’s favorite soup)

32 Responses to Winter Minestrone Soup with Garlic Bruschetta

  1. Valerie says:

    Made this and it was a winning recipe of course! Even my baby loves it! I simmered it with a rind from Parmesan cheese and it made it over the top good. You should try it. Thanks for making me feel like a rock star in the kitchen. I’m converting all my friends to Mel cooks too. 😉

    • Mel says:

      So funny…I just made this last week for a Christmas get together and threw in a rind of Parm when it was simmering. I was just hopping on to update the recipe! Great minds think alike. 🙂

  2. Holly says:

    I made this tonight but at the last minute, due to some picky eaters, I omitted the tomatoes and added cream. And the only green thing I put in was the pesto. It was so good and the kids loved it.

  3. Betsy says:

    Mel! What a great recipe! Thank you for sharing it. My silly grocery store didn’t have butternut squash (nor did it have a regular sized bag of carrots) so I subbed sweet potato after doing a quick internet search. They worked great! For the carrots, I used baby carrots and cut cut them into quarter inch coins. And the pesto? I was a little skeptical (not sure why because you’re reaching culinary genius in my book) but it took the soup seriously up multiple notches. Whoa! Way to go, girl!

  4. Laura says:

    I made this and really liked it and now I’m wondering if it could be modified to work in the crock pot. Have you ever tried? Thanks for all the great recipes!

  5. Karen K says:

    Hi, Mel…. I always have good luck with your recipes, and this post has convinced me to try this soup, BUT….I do not like butternut squash. Quite a bit of it is called for in the recipe. Can I just leave it out or will the soup be too runny? What else can I sub in?
    Mushrooms? Or would that be weird? I love zucchini, but not squishy/soft. I’d prefer it to have some sort of “bite” to it. Thank you in advance for your help 🙂

    • Mel says:

      You could leave out the butternut squash but the consistency of the soup will be different. I’d try subbing in sweet potatoes for the butternut and see how that goes…

  6. Kim says:

    This is AMAZING! I’ve made it three times since you posted it and craved it everyday in between. Thanks, Mel!

  7. Kristen says:

    Made this last night and enjoyed it quite a bit. I didn’t have any bacon on hand so I used some ham instead and thought it worked as a great alternative. Thank you for another great recipe.

  8. Natalie says:

    This was DELICIOUS! I used the chopped spinach and my kids didn’t mind at all. Such a tasty dinner for a winter night. Definitely adding this to our family’s rotation.

  9. Susan says:

    Simple, healthy and delicious — the pesto really does send it over the top, too! It was a great Valentines dinner (nice and garlicky).:)

  10. SK Rainsford says:

    I made this and took over to Mom’s for V-Day dinner and it was such a hit I had no leftovers! I made it vegetarian-style using veggie broth (adding poultry seasoning), the bacon was not expected nor missed either. My people are not celery fans so I reduced the amount by half and chopped it very small too. It’s GREAT y’all! Thanks Mel.

  11. Trish says:

    This soup was fabulous! I only had the Pesto and Quinoa from Trader Joes in my fridge. But I liked how it added a bit more texture in the soup.

  12. Mary says:

    Eating left overs right now! This is delicious and warming up my belly. I think I might try to chop my bacon first and leave it and the bacon fat in with the veggies for a deeper aroma. Either way, this is another keeper.

  13. Janet says:

    Can I use frozen butternut squash instead of fresh? And would I add it to the soup later if it’s thawed? Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Yes! You can use frozen butternut squash. Just add it according to the recipe and check on tenderness (it shouldn’t take that much longer to cook).

  14. Janet says:

    I hope you see this in time! I’m making this for dinner tonight – I wondered if I could use some frozen butternut squash I have in my freezer – I just bought a bag of it at Walmart. Don’t have the fresh. Would I have to thaw it first, or just add it to the soup frozen (if it’s to be thawed, would I add it later?). Thank you very much!

  15. Kamber says:

    Hi Mel,
    This soup looks amazing, and I just bought a butternut squash so I can give it a try. (Also, aside, I think I live in the same Idaho valley, and my kids and I totally wish there was WAY more snow!!)
    Quick question, you may have already answered somewhere… Do you ever use the pre-minced garlic from the jar? What’re your thoughts on it? Does the real, fresh garlic clove really give a much better flavor? I just hate having my hands smell like garlic after mincing.
    I’ll have to let you know how the soup turns out… My kids claim to not like butternut squash, so I’m always sneaking it in, in new and different ways.;)

    • Mel says:

      Hi Kamber – I don’t know the ins and outs of if the pre minced garlic tastes as good as whole garlic cloves but I tend to use the whole garlic cloves because I have a garlic press that can press cloves with the skins on still (so no peeling and no hands smelling like garlic). I think I read once on Cook’s Illustrated that the pre minced garlic lacks a bit of garlic punch (maybe because it’s sitting in liquid and the flavor isn’t quite as strong) but I may be making that up. I can’t remember exactly. 🙂

  16. Minestrone is one of my favorite types of soups, and I love to see variations! I would have never thought to add the bacon and butternut. Sounds fabulous! Thanks!

  17. Hannah says:

    I just made this and it is amazing!! I made it with the bruschetta and a side salad like you suggested and my family and I could not stop eating! Thank you for another great recipe!

  18. Kelsey says:

    This is right up my alley! Definitely going on next week’s menu!!

  19. Paige says:

    I’ve never had minestrone soup before, but this looks so delicious!


  20. Lori says:

    Any suggestions on something to use instead of butternut squash? I don’t really care for it! What about regular green zucchini?

  21. Laurie says:

    Sounds yummy! Any suggestions on doing this in the Instant Pot? I just got one this weekend and I’m scared to try it!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Laurie – you could try cooking the base of the soup (minus the pasta) in the InstantPot for probably 3-4 minutes (manual –> 4 minutes) and then add the pasta and pressure cook for a few more minutes. Pasta is a little tricky in a pressure cooker because it can go from nice and al dente to overdone and mushy pretty fast. I haven’t made this particular soup in a pressure cooker so you’d have to kind of experiment. If you are a newbie to the InstantPot you might go with a more tried-and-true recipe first (like beef stew or chili). Good luck!

  22. Pete says:

    Do you add the bacon back into the soup?

  23. Robyn says:

    Yum! I can wait to try this!! Lucky!( insert Napoleon Dynamite voice) on the snow!! We have been pelted with snow in Utah!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *