Minestrone is a famously delicious Italian soup made with lots of fresh vegetables, tomatoes and white beans. Sometimes pasta is added. This Minestrone soup has the addition of red lentils and beef short ribs. The beef is fall-off-the-bone tender and the lentils melt into the broth to give it a creamy texture. It’s the perfect supper for a cold winter night.
This recipe and post is a tribute to my late mother-in-law Barbara. She was an amazing person in so many ways. Her cooking was legendary. Barbara’s family and friends will always fondly remember the dinners she lovingly served us. Ten years ago, shortly after Barbara passed away, I published a cookbook of her recipes to honor her and to distribute among her loved ones, so we could continue to celebrate her life by cooking and enjoying her wonderful recipes. Minestrone soup was one of Barbara’s signature dishes. She would typically make two giant pots of it to divide into portions and freeze – one pot of vegetarian minestrone for herself and one with beef for her meat-loving husband Steve.
When I made the “Barbara’s Recipes” cookbook, I didn’t try out every recipe. I just gathered up all the recipes that were her favorites, and organized them for the book. Every so often I pull out the book and cook something from it – or Eddie does. I can’t believe it’s taken me ten years to get around to trying her “famous” minestrone with beef. I tested the recipe for the first time a week ago. It’s incredible! I’ll be making it again very soon. I’m very excited to share the recipe with you.
Here’s how the recipe goes. How to Make Minestrone Soup with Beef Short Ribs:
Start by browning the beef in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven.
Barbara never specified the cut of beef she used for her soup and I wasn’t blogging back then or I’m sure I would have asked. But from what I remember it had that exquisite, fork-tender quality of braised short ribs. Just to be sure, I tested both short ribs and shanks to see which cut worked best. Short ribs won. They became meltingly tender after about two hours of simmering, whereas the shanks were a bit tough.
After the meat is browned, set it aside and sauté the vegetables: leeks, carrots, onions, celery, and garlic. This will be the flavor base of the soup.
If you have a food processor you can save a ton of time. Cut the veggies into chunks and pulse them to a fine chop in the processor.
Once the vegetables have cooked a bit and softened, add the meat back to the pot, along with chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, parsley, salt and pepper. Simmer gently for an hour and 20 minutes. By this time the broth will already be delicious and the beef will be well on its way to fall-off-the-bone tenderness. Add cubed potatoes and zucchini and cook for an hour more.
When the soup is done cooking, remove the meat and bones from the pot. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and return them to the pot. Stir in the peas and simmer for 5 minutes longer until everything is heated through.
I opted for no pasta when I made this soup for dinner recently. There’s plenty of excitement in the pot already, with all the veggies, potatoes and meat. But pasta does add a fun textural layer and makes minestrone even more hearty and filling. If you decide to add it, I suggest using little pasta shapes, such as ditalini or acini de pepe. Don’t add the pasta directly to the soup pot or it will get soggy over time. The soup reheats really well and you want fresh-tasting leftovers! I suggest that you cook the pasta separately and portion it out into the individual soup bowls as you serve.
I want to thank My brother-in-law Michael for inspiring me to cook this. He pulled out his copy of the “Barbara Cookbook” a couple of weeks ago and made her minestrone with meat for his family. They raved and raved about how good it was. I have to agree. This soup is something else – hearty, satisfying, and incredibly delicious – just as I remember it.
Here’s the recipe for Minestrone Soup with Beef Short Ribs. As always, I’ll be excited to hear back from you if you make this. I’d love to know how it turned out!
- 4 pounds of beef short ribs, on the bone
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 leeks, white and light green part, finely chopped (note: make sure you wash the leeks well before chopping. Hold them under running water and let the water run between each layer to get out any bits of dirt or grit)
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
- 2 tablespoons of minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnishing
- 1 28-ounce can imported Italian plum tomatoes
- 8 cups of low-salt chicken broth, divided
- 1 can cannellini beans, drained
- 1 cup of dried red lentils, rinsed
- 4 zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice (4 cups)
- 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice (3 cups) Note: Peel and cut the potatoes right before adding them to the soup, so they don't discolor. Or cut them in advance and keep them in a bowl of water with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Drain before adding them.
- 1 pound fresh or frozen (defrosted) green peas
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Optional Add In:
- 2 ounces of cooked pasta, such as ditalini, acini de pepe, or alphabet noodles.
- Optional Garnishes:
- Chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Grated imported parmesan cheese, such as Parmigiana Reggiano
- Season meat on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat in a large (5-6 qt) soup pot or Dutch oven. Brown the beef in two batches, for 2-3 minutes per side. Set the beef aside and pour all the fat out of the pot.
- Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil to the pot and sauté the chopped vegetables over medium-low heat: leeks, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, for 6-7 minutes or until they get tender and start to brown.
- Return the meat to the pot. Add the canned tomatoes and their juice, tearing each tomato into pieces by hand as you add it to the pot.( If you're not up for hand-tearing the tomatoes, roughly chop them before adding) Add the beans, lentils, parsley, and 6 cups of chicken stock (reserve the remaining two cups of stock to thin the soup later, if need be)
- Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat and immediately reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot mostly, leaving a very small opening. Simmer for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and potatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook the soup for another hour, uncovered.
- Remove the meat and bones from the soup. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pot. Add the peas. Cook the soup for 5 minutes longer, until everything is heated through. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
- Serve in deep bowls. If you like, add a few tablespoons of cooked pasta to each bowl and stir through. Garnish with parsley and parmesan cheese, if you like.
- Time Saving Suggestion: Use a food processor with the chopping blade attachment, to finely chop the vegetables. First cut them into chunks. Then pulse them in the food processor until you get a fine chop.