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Three-Bean Minestra

Minestra is Italian for a soup with a light broth, tiny pasta and a few vegetables, unlike minestrone, literally "big soup," which is made with lots of vegetables.

  • Servings: 6

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  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • One 28-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes—drained, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup frozen shelled cranberry beans or 1 pound fresh cranberry beans, shelled
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups frozen string beans or 1 pound fresh string beans, cut into 2-inch lengths (4 cups)
  • 2 cups frozen flat green beans or 1/2 pound fresh flat green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths (2 cups)
  • 1 cup dried small tubular pasta, such as ditali (1/4 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, water and cranberry beans and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the cranberry beans are tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the string beans and flat beans, cover partially and cook over moderate heat until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring, until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the beans along with the parsley, vinegar, 1/2 cup of Parmesan and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the minestra in deep bowls and pass extra Parmesan at the table.

Make Ahead

The minestra can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Suggested Pairing

Look for a Chianti with some spice and good acidity to stand up to the tomatoes and vinegar in the soup.

Contributed By Photo © Linda Pugliese Published August 2000

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