Mom's Minestrone


This is less a soup than it is an Italian-American vegetable stew, great on its own but most often eaten more like a vegetable stroganoff or Bolognese, coating the pasta with its thick, rustic, vegetable-and-bean gravy, and finished in the bowl with fresh basil and a dusting of Parmesan and drizzle of olive oil. Adapted from The Don't Panic Pantry Cookbook: Mostly Vegetarian Comfort Food That Happens to Be Pretty Good for You © 2023 by Noah Galuten. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

a recipe photo of the Mom's Minestrone
Photo: Kristin Teig
Active Time:
1 hr
Total Time:
4 hrs

Of All the Skills My Mother Taught Me, The Most Important One Was How to Cook

Growing up, my mom insisted that her children learn how to cook. It was a basic and essential life skill, akin to learning how to drive a car or fold a fitted sheet (just kidding—no one knows how to fold a fitted sheet). While I vaguely remember terms like "cell wall" and "cytoplasm" from my high school biology class, I have quite distinct memories of my mom teaching me how to bread a chicken cutlet in flour, egg and breadcrumbs, and how to make a quick tomato sauce in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta.

These are skills I used over and over again in my younger days: to feed my friends (or maybe make friends) in college, to form a sense of community with my adult friends in my 20s and early 30s, and eventually to woo my wife. But most importantly, perhaps, these skills were used to keep myself well fed while other kids my age were resorting to cheap fast food or expensive, mediocre delivery.

I think back on those lessons a lot. I am perhaps an outlier who cared too much, who eventually turned my love of cooking into a career as a chef and cookbook author—but that was never the plan. Long before any of us ever imagined that my Mom's Minestrone would end up in a cookbook—let alone one from A.A. Knopf, who published legendary authors like Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich and Edna Lewis—it was this minestrone that I would bring to office potlucks, feed friendly neighbors with, or make a giant pot of and then eat throughout the week. It was the food of my childhood, created by my mom, who learned it from her mom and tweaked her own versions over the years. And my daughter Sierra, who celebrated her first birthday in January 2023, has eaten her fair share of Mom's Minestrone too.

The older I get, the more important these lifelong skills and recipes are to me. I believe that everyone, everywhere, should know how to cook for themselves food that they are willing to eat. And I will look upon it as a failure of my own parenting if my daughter cannot fend for herself one day, while digging through her pantry on a lonely Monday night.

During the early stages of the pandemic, my wife—brilliant stand-up comedian and writer Iliza Shlesinger—had to suspend her tour. We were, like everyone else, stuck at home. So we began a livestreamed cooking show called Don't Panic Pantry. The goal of the show was to help people "flatten the curve," to limit trips to the grocery store, and to learn how to cook with what they had. What we thought would be about two weeks of livestreams turned into 250 episodes, helping my wife's fans (and us) to find a sense of community and, more importantly, to cook a meal for themselves and find some form of comfort. They ate and cooked my Mom's Minestrone, and it has become a staple in many of their homes too.

Creating that show reminded me over and over of the value of a home-cooked meal, of the joy that comes from the smell of garlic, butter, leeks and olive oil gently wafting from the pot and filling the home. Because of my mom, and the support of all of those new home cooks, we now get to release The Don't Panic Pantry Cookbook: Mostly Vegetarian Comfort Food That Happens to Be Pretty Good for You. This is the food that I cook for my family, with so much of it passed down from my mother and grandmother, and it will pass down, hopefully, to my daughter too. You don't have to learn these things from your own mother—many people don't have that option. But you can find recipes that you love (like hopefully this one) and then start new traditions for yourself and the people around you. I can't wait until my daughter can stand on a chair and start cooking it with me.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided

  • Ground pepper to taste

  • 1 pound potatoes, diced (1/2-inch)

  • 3 medium carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick

  • 4 celery stalks, sliced 1/4-inch thick

  • 2 medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick

  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick

  • 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 pound frozen or fresh (shelled) peas

  • 3 ½ cups cooked beans with their cooking liquid clinging to them, such as cannellini and/or kidney beans or 2 (15- ounce) cans beans, drained but not rinsed

  • 4 cups  water or 2 cups water and 2 cups homemade chicken stock

  • 1 (2 inch) piece Parmesan rind

  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with juice

  • 1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette or medium shells

  • Roughly torn fresh basil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving (optional)


  1. Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium-low heat (the goal is to build flavor slowly at first). When the butter has melted, add leeks and garlic and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally (and get used to this step, since you are going to be doing it every time you add a new ingredient) until they have wilted and softened, about 4 minutes.

  2. Remark over how wonderful the kitchen smells, then add potatoes and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir to combine, and cook until the potatoes begin to sizzle. Add carrots and a pinch each of salt and pepper and stir. By now the pan will start to be crowded, so you can increase the heat to medium.

  3. Repeat these steps while adding each new ingredient, seasoning, stirring and allowing to sizzle before moving on to the next, adding in this order: celery, yellow squash, zucchini, green beans and peas. It should almost look like you are making a vegetable potpie filling.

  4. Add beans and the liquid clinging to them. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper. Add water (or water and stock). Increase heat to medium-high and add Parmesan rind. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup comes to a simmer. Add tomatoes and their juices and a pinch each of salt and pepper; bring to a gentle simmer.

  5. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cover the pot. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened into a hearty stew, about 3 hours. Taste for seasoning and adjust as you see fit.

  6. Just before serving, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

  7. Serve the soup with the pasta. Top with cheese and basil and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

To make ahead

Refrigerate soup and pasta separately for up to 1 week.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

450 Calories
9g Fat
79g Carbs
16g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 12
Serving Size 1 1/2 cups soup & 1/2 cup pasta
Calories 450
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 79g 29%
Dietary Fiber 11g 39%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 16g 32%
Total Fat 9g 12%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 8mg 3%
Vitamin A 5997IU 120%
Vitamin C 43mg 48%
Vitamin E 2mg 13%
Folate 91mcg 23%
Vitamin K 52mcg 43%
Sodium 720mg 31%
Calcium 124mg 10%
Iron 4mg 22%
Magnesium 87mg 21%
Potassium 1083mg 23%
Zinc 2mg 18%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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