This spring vegetable minestrone with kohlrabi takes advantage of the bounty of the season to produce a soup that is perfect for showery, cool evenings. Carrots, kohlrabi, and asparagus create a fresh, bright flavor anchored in a base of tomato-y broth enriched with parmesan rind. Cannellini beans and just a little bit of pasta help make it hearty enough to be a complete meal.
I know fall is widely considered to be soup season, but I’m a year-round soup kinda girl. I particularly love brothy, tomato-y soup, which of course means I’m a sucker for minestrone. This spring vegetable minestrone with kohlrabi comes together relatively quickly, and is a genuine crowd-pleaser. The parmesan-enriched broth just begs for a piece of smoky grilled bread for dipping. I always make extra so I can have soup for lunch the next day!
Kohlrabi: your new favorite vegetable
For those of you who are unfamiliar, kohlrabi is a delightfully crunchy, sweet version of a turnip. It doesn’t have a strong flavor like a turnip, it tastes more like a sweet, mild broccoli stem, with just a little hint of turnip. Kohlrabi greens are also delicious, either cooked or blended into a pesto. Kohlrabi stems can be chopped up and thrown into a stir fry. In this soup, chopped kohlrabi cooks up sweet and soft with just the right amount of firmness in the center, and the kohlrabi greens stand in for the customary spinach or kale.
I am increasingly finding kohlrabi in local grocery stores, and you will definitely find them at your local farmers market starting in May. Growing kohlrabi is also very easy! I have a small vegetable patch and grow at least one planting each spring, sometimes two. It’s a very low-maintenance plant with few diseases or pests to worry about, so if you have the space I encourage you to give growing kohlrabi a try.
White wine and parmesan rind add richness
While I was developing this recipe I definitely wanted to keep it on the lighter side, so it was an easy choice to make it meatless. Vegetable broth is the obvious substitution, but I didn’t want to give up all of the richness you get from using a meat broth. I almost always use white wine to deglaze my pan when I’m making soup, that’s kind of a no-brainer. But the other trick I frequently use to enrich my soups is lesser-known.
Parmesan cheese rind is an ingredient used in Italy to enrich broths of all kinds, and it is the perfect choice for spring vegetable minestrone. I pop the leftover rinds from the parmesan wedges I buy in a silicone bag in my freezer, where they keep for a couple of months. Many cheese counters will also sell you the rind from their parmesan wheels, often for cheap. You’ll want a bit of parm to go on top of your soup anyway, so you can always just buy a wedge and cut off the rind. But however you go about acquiring your rind, I’m sure you’ll be happy with the results.
Be sure to look through your soup for any remnants of the parmesan rind when you are finished cooking your soup. Sometimes they just dissolve entirely, so if you can’t find it, it’s not a problem, but if there’s a big chunk in there you’ll want to find it.
Note: to make this recipe vegetarian, I recommend stirring in ½ teaspoon of Trader Joe’s Umami Seasoning Blend to add richness instead of simmering with the parmesan rind (parmesan cheese is not considered vegetarian as it is made with animal rennet).
Tips for the perfect spring vegetable minestrone
- If you can, use homemade broth. I know not everyone has time to make homemade broth, and if you don’t, I am not here to judge. But if you have the time and the inclination, homemade vegetable broth is worlds better than any kind of store-bought broth, especially in a brothy soup like minestrone. I use this recipe, and I cook and freeze broth a couple of times a year. When I do need to buy it, I like Pacific Foods brand broths and stocks.
- Switch up your soup with a variety of vegetables. One of the nice things about vegetable minestrone is that it is totally customizable with whatever veggies you like or what you have on hand. You can swap the kohlrabi for something like zucchini or butternut squash, or the asparagus for green beans. You can use any kind of canned beans you want, or swap out the pasta for rice. The sky's the limit!
- Don’t overcook your pasta. The pasta will continue cooking in the hot broth, so take the soup off the heat one minute shy of the recommended cooking time, when it’s still al dente. This should keep the pasta from getting mushy as your soup cools to a comfortable temperature for eating.
Prep ahead and storage
Spring vegetable minestrone soup can easily be made ahead, cooled, then stored in the refrigerator, though I recommend undercooking the vegetables a bit, and adding the pasta after bringing it back to a simmer. That will keep the veggies from overcooking, and the pasta from getting soggy sitting in the soup.
This soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months, although if you make it with the intention of freezing it, leave the pasta out and add it later, as I described in the previous paragraph.
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Spring Vegetable Minestrone with Kohlrabi
- 1 4 quart soup pot or larger
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 1 cup leek, halved and sliced (about 1 medium leek)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 ½ teaspoons)
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 ½ cups carrot, chopped (about 2 large)
- 1 14 oz. can diced San Marzano tomatoes, undrained
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 2 inch piece of parmesan cheese rind (optional)
- 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 6 thin stalks of asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 ½ cups peeled and chopped kohlrabi
- 2 big handfuls of chopped kohlrabi greens or baby spinach
- 1 cup mini penne or other small pasta
- Shredded parmesan and black pepper for garnish
- Set a soup pot over medium heat and swirl in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the chopped onion and leek and saute 5-6 minutes until translucent.
- Once the onions are translucent, add in the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the white wine and let it cook off for 2 minutes, stirring, until it’s reduced by half.
- Add the chopped carrots, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, broth, salt, bay leaves, and parmesan rind. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Add in the cannellini beans, the chopped kohlrabi, and the kohlrabi greens, and simmer until the kohlrabi is almost tender, about 8 minutes.
- Add in the pasta and asparagus, and cook 1 minute less than the directions on the box say.
- Remove the bay leaves and the parmesan rind, if you can find it (they sometimes disintegrate). Taste one more time for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Spoon into bowls and top with shredded parmesan cheese and black pepper to taste. Serve with plenty of toasty whole grain bread to soak up all the goodness!
- Choose kohlrabi that are bright green with no cracking, and feel heavy for their weight. Their leaves, if they have them, should be dark green.
- If your kohlrabi greens are wilted, cut them off and place the cut ends in an inch or two of water, they should perk up in 10-20 minutes.
- If you can't find kohlrabi, substitute peeled and chopped broccoli stem, or new potatoes.
- If your kohlrabi comes without greens or you prefer not to use them, you can substitute baby spinach leaves. Add them just after you take the soup off the heat and stir them in to wilt.
- To make this soup vegan, add ½ teaspoon Trader Joe's Mushroom & Co. Umami Seasoning Blend when you add the other herbs.