Italian Vegetable Soup (Paleo & Whole30)

I feel a little disloyal to my recipe when I say this, but…

I think I’ve hit the wall on Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup.

David and I ate Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup just about every week since I posted it in 2012. That means we’ve eaten approximately 267 batches of that soup. I know that I’ll go back to it eventually. Like black eyeliner and straight-across bangs, it’s a staple in my life.

But a few weeks ago, I had a craving for minestrone soup. In Italian, the name means “big soup,” and the original version includes beans and rice or pasta—and sometimes both starches! My paleo version is all veggies, and it’s very hearty. The directions are a little bossy because the flavor of the soup is built in layers: a foundation of bacon (and isn’t that a fine way to start?), then tomatoes for umami, then veggies and bone broth for flavor and nutrients. There’s a fast-ish version and a slow-cooked version—all explained below—and it’s very easy to transform it from a “side of veggies” to a full meal. Buon appetito!

NOTE: If you can’t get your hands on pancetta (Italian bacon), American bacon will work just fine. If you’re Whole30-ing, make sure you use sugar-free bacon. (And if you can’t find sugar-free bacon, you can skip it; just increase the extra-virgin olive oil by 1 tablespoon or replace it with pastured lard. This recipe is very accommodating.)

Italian Vegetable Soup

Makes enough for leftovers! | Prep 30 minutes | Cook 90 minutes

  • 4 ounces pancetta or prosciutto (or American bacon), cut into 1/4-inch dice — Use sugar-free, nitrate-free for Whole30

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

  • 1 medium onion, finely diced

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced

  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced

  • 1 tablespoon Pizza Seasoning (or a commercial Italian Herb Blend)

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 pound ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces

  • 8 ounces green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths

  • 1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets

  • 5 ounces baby spinach

  • 8 cups bone broth (any combo of flavors)

  • garnish: fresh basil, parsley, and/or rosemary


Cook the aromatics. Place the pancetta and olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has given up its fat but isn’t browning. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and pizza seasoning along with a generous pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender but not browned, 10-15 minutes, adding more oil if the veggies start to stick.


Umami that thing. When the veggies are soft, add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and keep stirring until most of their moisture has evaporated and the mixture starts to fry. You’ll hear a crackly sound…


Increase the veggie power. Add the zucchini, green beans, cauliflower, and broth; simmer until the veggies are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until it’s wilted, about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, if it’s needed.


Now you have options!

Eat now: You can serve the soup right away as it, and it will be delicious.

Eat later: Continue to simmer the soup for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. This gives the soup a heartier flavor but it does render the vegetables quite soft. Choose your own adventure.


To serve, spoon into deep bowls and top with minced fresh herbs, a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, and ground black pepper.

I think you can probably guess which version I like the best: I never met a slow-simmered recipe I didn’t love! But truly, they’re both delicious. And this soup tastes even better on day 2 and 3, so you can enjoy comforting veggie soup all week long.

You Know How You Could Do That?

The veggies above are merely suggestions and the combo I make most often. But you can swap your favorite veggies in and out at will—just try to replace like-with-like for variety and texture.

  • Swap broccoli for cauliflower
  • Swap yellow summer squash for zucchini
  • Swap asparagus for green beans
  • Replace any of the first-round veggies with cabbage, kale, or collard greens
  • Add cubed white or sweet potatoes during the first round of veggies
  • Swap chard or watercress for spinach

You might also add a few spoonfuls of this Basil Pesto to your bowl, if you’re feeling sassy.

Make it a Meal

I like to think of this soup as a veggie serving, so I usually don’t cook the protein right in the soup. But it’s easy to add protein to make this bowl of veggies a complete meal. While the soup is simmering, brown 1 1/2 pounds of ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey, bison) with 1 tablespoon of either Pizza Seasoning or Italian Sausage Seasoning. Place the cooked ground meat in the bottom of the bowl and top with soup. You could also toss in cooked and shredded Italian Pork Roast, these Pesto Chicken Meatballs, or the Italian Meatballs from Well Fed 2.

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  • Amanda says:

    Yummmmmm……I’m a long time fan (back from The Clothes Make the Girl days-I heard about you from Hila Cooking), first time commenter. This soup reminds me of a pizza soup my mom used to make. I’m thinking the addition of pepperoni and Italian sausage will make this a heathy version of that beloved soup. It also contained collard greens, crazily enough, that I may add as well. I can’t wait to make this! Thanks for making Paleo and doing a Whole30 seem much less intimidating! You and Michelle from nomnompaleo are my heroes!

  • Jim Brennan says:

    The beans were always my least favorite part of minestrone, so good riddance! And great suggestion on the pepperoni Amanda, thank you as well.

  • Donna Gibson says:

    This looks wonderful! I will be making this for New Years. Thank you so much for all of your fabulous recipes.

  • Jon Varese says:

    Mel . . . any idea for pork substitute? (Maybe chicken sausage, as the previous commenter suggests?) I know, tragic, but someone in the house does not eat pork. 🙁

    • For the base, you can just skip the pancetta/bacon and use an additional tablespoon of olive oil. And just about any ground meat or sausage will work—chicken, turkey, beef, bison. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is lamb. Enjoy!

  • Chelsea says:

    Ooof, this looks so good! My spouse is constantly asking me to make more soup. I’ll have to keep this one on hand!

  • Linda says:

    I am the quintessential blonde. What constitutes “first round veggies “?

  • Kris says:

    I made this soup yesterday – WoW! It’s exactly the veggie load I was looking for. My only sub was broccoli for cauli (’cause that’s what I had). I wanted to do the long simmer, but I’d rather keep my veggies crunchy (at least some of them). So I did my long 1-1/2 hour simmer before putting in round 2 veggies. In fact I turned off the soup and threw in my R2 veggies and just let them sit in the hot soup (I used frozen veggies, ‘cept for the zuc, that I cut and defrosted while the soup was simmering). Win-Win! I’m have a bowl right now with breakfast. Perfect!

    • So glad you liked it! As you experienced, this recipe is VERY flexible. I love when i get down to the ends of my batch and the veggies are super mushy. I know that’s weird, but I love when it kind turns to veggie gruel 😉

  • Suzie says:

    Every month or so, I cook several batches of soup that I can puree with the stick blender, then freeze in small containers. Makes comforting snacks, an extra veg, or a meal when I’m under the weather. I, too, had hit a wall with the wonderful silky zuch soup. While you don’t advocate pureeing this one, I’m going to try it. (Will remove the pancetta after it cooks, then put it back as a garnish on each little bowl.) Thank you for sharing your life and creativity with us!

    • Let me know what you think if you puree it. I imagine that it would be pretty awesome. Thank you for reading and being part of my Well Fed family 🙂

    • Jennifer says:

      @Suzie, how was it pureed?!! #cliffhanger !!
      P.S. sheepishly raising hand in agreement on silky gingered zuch wall, never thought it would happen! Found I have to take breaks when I see a partial batch left to sit for days BY ME.

      • Laura says:

        I did the thing! I stuck my stick blender in the pot and pureed about half of it. It thickened up a lot and was delightful. =D

  • Rachelle says:

    I can’t wait to hear the outcome of pureeing the soup. What a way to pull the wool over my children’s eyes *erk* I mean bless my kids with veggies. ?

  • Carisa says:

    This was was delicious! Very rich and flavorful. I took the suggestion and added leftover Italian pork roast. Definitely a keeper!

  • Wendy says:

    I made this last night and had two bowls. I added some ground beef to the bowl first then topped with the soup. Delish! I also used the Amore blend of seasonings from Primal Palate . My question is does it freeze well? This recipe makes a lot for one person. Thanks!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And yes, it freezes well. The veggies get a little mushy, but the flavor is good. If you know you’re going to freeze some, you might want to reduce the simmering time and freeze a portion, then cook the soup you’re going to eat right away for a little bit longer.