This hearty white minestrone soup with barley and beans is the perfect bowl of goodness for a cold day. This version of an Italian classic is made with cannellini beans, pearl barley, pancetta and potatoes and served with grated Parmesan cheese on top for the ultimate comfort meal!
I absolutely love hearty soups loaded with veggies, and in the past I posted recipes for an amazingly tasty vegan zuppa Toscana and a belly-warming pasta e ceci. Sensing a pattern here? Yes, I have a thing for Italian minestrone-style soups and I’m not apologising.
This minestrone soup with cannellini beans will warm your belly and heart and you might not be able to stop after just one bowl.
What I like about soups like this is that you can make them as thick as you like. I like a thicker zuppa because I’m not serving them with anything else, but you can add more liquid and serve it with some crusty bread or even crispy slices of garlic bread.
This is a minestrone soup with pancetta, but if you want to make it vegetarian, simply omit it and proceed with the rest of the recipe — it will still be delicious. I tested it with regular pancetta and smoked pancetta and I like both a lot, so use whichever you like.
What do you need to make the white minestrone soup?
To make the soup, you’ll need:
- Dried cannellini beans — you’ll need to leave them to soak overnight. This recipe doesn’t work well with tinned beans because you need to simmer the dried beans with veggies and use the resulting broth in the soup.
- Pancetta — this is optional, but highly recommended if you’re not veggie. You only need a bit of it, but the way it enhances the flavours of the soup is totally worth it.
- Pearl barley — I soak the pearl barley for a couple of hours to speed up the cooking, but it’s not really necessary if you have time and more patience than I do.
- Fresh rosemary — dry rosemary doesn’t work in this recipe, so get a couple of fresh sprigs (the fresher the better)
How do you make the soup?
There are three main steps to make this recipe. Full instructions are available in the recipe card below and there’s also a video at the bottom with step-by-step instructions.
First, you’ll need to bring the beans and some veggies to a boil, and simmer for 40-45 minutes until the beans are tender. When the beans are ready, discard the onion, carrot and celery stick. Filter the broth and keep it.
The next step is to fry some onion and garlic together with a bunch of chopped parsley and some rosemary sprigs. Prepare to be blown away by how fragrant this mix is. Set it aside as you’ll need it at the end.
And the third phase is making the actual minestrone. Start by frying the pancetta until slightly crispy and add the diced veggies to marry the flavours for a couple of minutes.
Next, add the pearl barley, beans, the broth resulted from simmering the beans and simmer on low-medium heat for 30 minutes.
Finally, add the parsley and rosemary mixture and cook for another 10 minutes or until the pearl barley is done to your liking.
Serve hot with grated Parmesan on top if you like.
Can you freeze this minestrone?
Yes, you can freeze this pearl barley minestrone. It will keep for up to three months in a resealable container. Thaw it overnight in the fridge and reheat it in a pan, stirring occasionally, until boiling.
If the minestrone seems too thick, add a splash of water until it reaches the desired consistency.
The minestrone will keep in the fridge for up to three days if you have leftovers.
If you liked this white bean minestrone recipe, you might also like:
- 200 g (7 oz) cannellini beans (soaked overnight)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 celery sticks (one with leaves on)
- 2 carrots
- 2 medium onions (one chopped, one whole)
- 1 large potato
- 75 g (2.5 oz) pancetta
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 rosemary sprigs (just the needles)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 200 g (7 oz) pearl barley
- Grated Parmesan (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the cannellini beans that were previously soaked overnight in a large pan, add one of the carrots, the whole onion, and the celery stick with leaves, and cover with water (about 1.2 liters). Bring the pan to a boil on medium-high heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes or until the beans are tender but not mushy.
- When the beans are ready, discard the onion, carrot, and celery stick. Filter the broth and keep it.
- In a pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and fry the chopped onion for 3-4 minutes until it softens. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more until fragrant. Stir in the chopped parsley and the rosemary needles and cooks for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Leave the mixture aside.
- Dice the remaining onion, carrot, and celery stick, as well as the potato. In a large pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil and cook the pancetta on medium heat until still crispy. Add all the veggies you chopped and stir for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the pearl barley and beans and stir to combine. Add the bay leaf, stir in the broth, and simmer on low-medium heat for 30 minutes.
- Add the parsley and rosemary mixture and cook for another 10 minutes or until the pearl barley is done to your liking.
- Season to taste and serve with grated Grana Padano on top, if you like.
Amount Per Serving Calories 429Total Fat 21gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 15mgSodium 148mgCarbohydrates 51gFiber 9gSugar 5gProtein 11g
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.