The River Cafe's winter minestrone

The River Cafe's winter minestrone

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(16 ratings)

Ready in 1¾ hours


Serves 5

A really thick, filling minestrone soup - tastes even better after a day

Nutrition and extra info

  • Vegetarian

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal263
  • fat10g
  • saturates2g
  • carbs27g
  • sugars0g
  • fibre9g
  • protein17g
  • salt2.64g
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  • 2 tbsp olive oil
    olive oil

    Olive oil

    ol-iv oyl

    Probably the most widely-used oil in cooking, olive oil is pressed from fresh olives. It's…

  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped



    The carrot, with its distinctive bright orange colour, is one of the most versatile root…

  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 head of celery, coarsely chopped, keeping the leaves



    A collection of long, thick, juicy stalks around a central, tender heart, celery ranges in…

  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled



    Part of the lily, or alium, family, of which onions are also a member, garlic is one of the most…

  • 1kg Swiss chard, leaves shredded and stalks roughly chopped
    Swiss chard

    Swiss chard

    swiss shard

    Also known as just plain chard, swiss chard has large, fleshy but tender deep green leaves and…

  • a good handful of parsley, finely chopped



    One of the most ubiquitous herbs in British cookery, parsley is also popular in European and…

  • 400g can peeled plum tomatoes, drained of most of their juices, roughly chopped



    A member of the nightshade family (along with aubergines, peppers and chillies), tomatoes are in…

  • 1kg cavolo nero, stalks removed, leaves shredded (or savoy cabbage)
    Cavolo nero

    Cavolo nero

    ca-voll-oh nee-ro

    A loose-leafed cabbage from Tuscany, Italy. The leaves are a very dark green, almost black,…

  • 410g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
    Cannellini bean

    Cannellini bean

    can-a-leen-ee been

    Slightly kidney-shaped with squarish ends, cannellini beans are from Italy and are creamy white…

  • about 700ml boiling chicken or vegetable stock



    Chicken's many plus points - its versatility, as well as the ease and speed with which it…

  • a few sprigs of winter herbs such as thyme or sage, chopped


    This popular herb grows in Europe, especially the Mediterranean, and is a member of the mint…

  • freshly grated Parmesan, or vegetarian alternative



    Parmesan is a straw-coloured hard cheese with a natural yellow rind and rich, fruity flavour. It…

  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and slowly fry the carrots, onion and celery until soft and dark. This will take about 20 minutes but it’s worth it – the slow cooking gives a lovely taste. Add the garlic, chard stalks and half the parsley, and stir to prevent sticking. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until reduced.

  2. Add half the Swiss chard leaves, half the cavolo nero, three-quarters of the beans, and the boiling stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Pour in more stock if needed – don’t add too much – it should be thick.

  3. Add the remaining Swiss chard and cavolo nero and blanch briefly so they remain green and crisp. Season when slightly cooled.

  4. Purée the remaining cannellini beans coarsely in a blender with some of the cooking liquid. Add to the soup – it should be very green. Stir in the herbs and serve hot with Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Comments (22)

carolgriffiths's picture

For a more italian feel try changing the herbs to 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped rosemary and 1 teaspoon of dry basil and oregano and add 2 tablespoons of tomato puree. At the end of cooking add 1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce- sounds odd but tastes great. Broken spaghetti pieces work well too as a pasta to add 10-15 mins before the end of cooking time.

ayeishaa's picture

This looks delicious, will try it soon!

I am 15 and have just started my own food blog it would really help me if you looked at my blog and commented or told people you know about it. Thanks x

ayeishaa's picture

This looks delicious, will try it soon!

I am 15 and have just started my own food blog it would really help me if you looked at my blog and commented or told people you know about it. Thanks x

sukieduke's picture

I have never been successful making minestrone soup before trying this recipe. Particularly like the consistency produced by liquidising the cannelini beans at the end. Not too tomatoey!!! I used just spring cabbage instead of Swiss chard and cavolo nero and it worked fine. I also added some soup pasta for last 10 minutes. Yummy and apart from the fact that initial chopping of vegetables a bit of a chore it was easy to make! A definite addition to my repertoire!!

babsfazekas's picture

Delicious, and great to have a winter version of the usual summery soup to use up the chard we've been getting in our veggie box. I was only making this for two so I didn't pay attention to the measurements (2 kilos of greens does seem like a lot though). This is what I went with, which made the perfect amount for two: 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, a whole heap of chard (unmeasured, but guessing around 400 g), 1 can of beans, 1 can of tomatoes, 1 cup of broth. Blending some of the beans really improves the texture, I wouldn't skip that bit. Lovely stuff.

derbhala's picture

Have now made this four times changing slightly the ingredients each time for example used spinach for chard, added pasta along with the beans. Each time it has been delicious. Last night all my friends wanted seconds and commented on the lightness and flavour. And it gets better on the second and third day.

pjsenatorgmailcom's picture

celery = apio
Cannelini beans = alubias
parsley = perejil
Swiss chard = acelgas
Kale = col frizada (for cavolo nero)

melaniespiteri's picture

A very good and healthy soup. I added barley to it to make it more substantial.

kaszamar's picture

I had about 1 small glass of wite wine in the fridge. I added that and used dried mixed italian herbs plus a bit of extra thyme - it was lovely. You won't need 2 kg of leaf vegetables in it. They are sold in 200g packs which is more than what you'll need. Even if you add 1l of stock it'll be really thick.

colettep's picture

I am absolutely baffled as to why this recipe is marked as easy? I couldn't get the swiss chard and was advised on the internet that a mixture of spinach and kale would suffice. However the weight in the recipe must be wrong as I had far too much and equally 700ml of stock wasn't enough liquid. I ended up with a bit pot full of green mess which tasted nice but wasn't a soup.

marcella77's picture

I just made it with lentils and red kidney beans, added some rough bacon pieces too.. smells divine!

kerimhaughton's picture

A bowl of steaming health.

agathabean's picture

Would love to make this! Can anyone tell me what they did with the garlic?

jostone's picture

Fantastic, and much more flexible than you might think. I've added pasta instead of beans - it was even better. Yum!

chloeq's picture

Anytime RachyC, if you ever want any more advice, visit my homepage - its - possibilities for minestrone soup are endless!

rc6039's picture

Thanks for the tip ChloeQ. Added the macaroni and you were spot on with that one. lovely and warming on a cold winters night :)

chloeq's picture

Absolutely delicious. I added a couple of tablespoons of macaroni as well, which was a nice touch. Agree that it gets even better after leaving it overnight.

avsavs's picture

Made this overnight in slow cooker. Did it with borlotti beans - soaked them first during the day, then boiled 10 mins. Added beans to rest of ingredients (except cavelo nero) and left to cook. Just added cavelo nero next morning. Was lovely for lunch, even better once it had been in the fridge for a day or two.

kizmax's picture

easy to make, tastes great, brilliant dish when its cold and wet outside, light a fire and eat this yummy soup !


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Tips (1)

stokeysue's picture

This is a great recipe; simmer a parmesan rind in it, if you have one, to boost the flavour, and don't skimp the initial slow cooking
However, there is I think a pair of errors in the ingredients, which read
"1kg Swiss chard, leaves shredded and stalks roughly chopped
1kg cavolo nero, stalks removed, leaves shredded (or savoy cabbage)"
I think this should be one BUNCH or supermen pack of each, NOT one kilogram, a bunch being around 350 grams. That makes plenty for 5 portions - think about it, you can't cook 2kg greens to soup in 700 ml liquid, and few people would want as much as 400g each in a soup plate! Anyway, that's the amount I use, and mine looks just like the photo!