Minestrone soup with meatballs is my hearty and warming take on traditional minestrone soup. Brimming with juicy and tender beef meatballs, lots of flavorful vegetables, creamy white beans and an array of fresh Italian herbs, it's a terrifically soothing one-pot meal!
Minestrone Soup with Meatballs, a Family Favorite
I cannot think of minestrone soup without thinking of my sweet and precious dad.
My dad utterly adores homemade minestrone soup, and very often when he and my mom visit with us, he'll put in a request for me to make it.
Like me, he loves to cook, and I know that in his own kitchen he does his best to replicate from memory what classic minestrone soup tastes like.
But call it sentimentality, I have a feeling he asks me to prepare it for him when he's with us because it tastes better when I (still his “little girl” 😉) make it for him out of an abundance of love. Who can blame him?
Because I know my dad is such a fan, he served as the inspiration for me preparing an even richer, more substantial version of traditional minestrone, the best possible version I could make.
Since in our family we all love lots of vegetables in our brothy soups, my minestrone recipe features generous additions of carrots, celery, zucchini and spinach. And to those delicious and abundant veggies I add pearl-like navy beans, and finish the soup off with lots of fresh, fragrant herbs such as parsley and basil.
But my homemade minestrone soup recipe becomes an extra cozy one-pot meal with the addition of flavorful, tender beef meatballs.
This slow-simmered minestrone soup with meatballs is a family favorite of ours, warming our bellies and comforting our souls. It's the perfect recipe to prepare when I long to share my love and my nurture with those most dear to me!
How to Make Minestrone Soup with a Rich and Meaty Twist
While a more traditional minestrone soup typically doesn't have meat, I've found that I really love the addition of beef meatballs to create a wonderfully meaty twist.
This, along with a few other key ingredients, makes this soup quite a bit more substantial, and adds some delicious flavor and richness!
Here's a peek at my minestrone soup with meatballs recipe: (or just jump to them full recipe below...)
- To prepare my meatballs, I season my ground beef liberally with garlic, dried herbs and a even a little pinch of red pepper flakes, along with some breadcrumbs plus a few other ingredients.
- To impart lots of extra flavor to the base of the soup, I first sear the meatballs off in the soup pot and then remove them to then saute my veggies in those tasty juices!
- Instead of red kidney beans I substitute creamy navy beans, as I find them a bit more delicate in flavor and texture. I add those in when I add back into the pot the seared meatballs and the broth.
- The little secret ingredient I add in as the minestrone soup simmers is a small piece of parmesan rind which infuses the soup with a slightly savory, nutty, cheesy flavor, and I removed it at the end. (This is optional, but if you remember to save the rinds from your wedges of parmesan cheese, you can use them for extra flavor in soups like this!)
- Once simmered, I add in some spinach and a generous sprinkle of fresh herbs; and to serve the soup, I spoon some cooked ditalini pasta into a bowl (instead of elbow macaroni), then ladle the soup over the pasta!
Minestrone Soup with Meatballs
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 574 calories
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
• Olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 3 carrots, peeled and diced
• 2 ribs celery, diced
• 1 large zucchini, diced
• 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
• 1 teaspoon dry oregano
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• Pinch salt
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 3 large cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 1 (3 ounce) can tomato paste
• 5 cups beef broth or stock, warm
• 1 (15 ounce) can navy beans (or other small white beans), drained and rinsed
• Parmesan rind chunk (optional)
• 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
• 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 1 tablespoon chopped basil
• 1 ½ cups cooked ditalini pasta (or small elbow pasta)
• Grated parmesan, for garnish
• 1 pound ground beef (85/15 ratio)
• 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs (about a 2 ounce French roll, processed in food processor)
• 2 small garlic cloves (or 1 large), pressed through garlic press
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 1 egg
• 2 tablespoons milk
- Begin by preparing your meatballs: add the ground beef to a large bowl, along with the remainder of the meatball ingredients, and using your hands, mix the mixture until well combined.
- Portion out about ½ ounce meatballs, and roll; chill meatballs for about 15 minutes.
- Once the meatballs have chilled, place a large soup pot over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil; once the oil is hot, add in about half of the meatballs, and brown them on all sides for about 3-4 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the browned meatballs and then repeat with the remaining meatballs; set all of the browned meatballs aside for a moment.
- Into that same pot drizzle in a bit more oil if needed, and add in the onion, carrots, and celery, and saute those for about 3-4 minutes, or until they start to become slightly tender.
- Add in the zucchini, along with the Italian seasoning, dry oregano, black pepper, pinch of salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic, and stir to combine.
- Once the garlic becomes aromatic, add in the tomato paste, and cook that for about 30 seconds, just to cook out the raw flavor.
- Next, add back into the pot the browned meatballs, along with the white beans and the beef broth/stock, and gently stir to combine; add in the parmesan rind chunk (if using), and cover the soup partially with a lid; bring the soup up to a rolling simmer, then reduce the heat to low and gently simmer the soup for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After 25 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the parmesan rind, if using; add in the spinach leaves, parsley, and basil, and stir; check the seasoning to see if any additional salt/pepper if needed.
- To serve, add some of the cooked pasta to a bowl, and ladle the soup over top; garnish with grated parmesan, if desired.
Tips & Tidbits for my Minestrone Soup with Meatballs:
- Lean ground beef: Whenever I make homemade meatballs, I like to use organic, lean ground beef. The ratio of lean to fat I typically purchase is 85/15, which is ideal for this soup recipe. You can go leaner, but know that the meatballs may be a bit dryer and not quite as tender.
- Chill the meatballs before searing: Once you prep the meatball mixture and shape the meatballs, take about 15 minutes to chill the meatballs to help them firm up and keep shape when you sear/simmer them. Giving them a little rest after searing is always good too!
- Save your parmesan cheese rinds: Once you have enjoyed your wedge of parmesan cheese and have only the rind left, don't toss it out! It's a total flavor boost, not only for this minestrone soup with meatballs, but for marinara/red sauces as well. It is removed at the end of the cooking process, but lends great flavor while the soup (or a tomato sauce) simmers!
- Ditalini, the other tiny pasta: I love ditalini in place of elbow macaroni, just for a fun twist. I appreciate that it's a bit more delicate, but feel free to use small elbow macaroni if you'd like.
- Vegetarian option: If you'd like to make this minestrone soup vegetarian, simply skip the meatballs preparation and substitute the beef broth with vegetable broth. It'll still be incredibly flavorful!
Hungry for more soothing soup recipes? Check out this Italian Vegetable Soup, this Harvest Stew with Smoked Sausage, this Philly Cheesesteak Stew, or this Simple Lemony Chicken Soup with Spring Veggies!
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2015, and has been updated with even more love!