Kitchen Sink Minestrone

Minestrone Soup in a big pot with Parmesan

Guest Post by Dietetic Intern Grace Voorheis

Sometimes doing the right thing can feel overwhelming.  You hear so much about our warming world that it’s enough to make you want to throw in the towel. That, however, is exactly what I love about this resolution to be better about food waste.  It hardly takes any brain power and the solution lies squarely in my own hands. It’s not solar power. It’s not better public transportation.  It’s something I have immediate control over.  Plus, since the average household throws away between $360 to $2000 a year in in wasted food, there is an economic incentive to boot.

Turn Waste into Soup

So, to put my money where my mouth is, Katie and I collaborated on a food waste prevention recipe.  I call it “Kitchen Sink Minestrone” (although as I was pulling out tired-looking produce from the fridge, “landfill soup” is what really came to mind.  The recipe is all about using whatever leftovers you have on hand, so think of it more as an outline. Soup makes good sense now, since it’s winter, but there are so many other ways to use up leftovers.

More Ways with Leftovers

  • Sauces: Add extra veggies to sauces, even if the recipe doesn’t call for it. I’ve rarely seen a few extra collard leaves ruin a dish.
  • Stir-frys: This is probably our household’s most common use of extra veggies.  Once a week, we make a “fried rice” with any extra meat or veggies we haven’t managed to use up in other recipes.
  • Salads: If you’re shooting for a healthy meal anyways by eating a salad, why not poke around your fridge and pantry to see what you can use up. Fruits, greens, vegetables, beans, legumes, meat, poultry, cheese, and eggs are all fair game. 
  • Sandwiches: We hardly buy lunch meat anymore and just stick with leftover chicken or firm fish like tuna or salmon, adding a bit of mayo, diced celery/fennel/apples and voila! Lunch or a light supper is served.
  • Blended soups:  The beauty of these kinds of soups is that you can usually toss almost any kind of vegetable in there and it works.  Plus, it’s a great way to get a few more veggies into your kids.
  • Broth: Store chicken or meat bones, as well as vegetables scraps (think kale stems, corn cobs, carrot tops) in the freezer until you are ready to make a batch of broth. Easy.

Also, if you are looking for more inspiration, head on over to Love Food, Hate Waste, a site devoted exclusively and passionately to the subject of food waste.

Kitchen Sink Minestrone

This minestrone soup is a framework for using up whatever leftovers you have on hand. All manner of vegetables, leftover pasta, chicken broth, beans, Parmesan cheese rinds, and even leftover meat or poultry are all fair game here. Feel free to get creative with this “Everything but the Kitchen Sink” soup.
Servings 6 servings


  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 cups raw vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 6 to 8 cups chicken, beef, or vegetables broth
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • Parmesan rind, if you have one
  • 4 to 5 ounces uncooked pasta, such as penne, farfalle, or rotini (see note)
  • Optional: large handful raw spinach, kale, chard, or other leafy greens, stemmed and chopped
  • Optional: 1 to 2 cups leftover chopped poultry, meat, or cooked beans or chickpeas
  • Parmesan cheese for serving


  1. Heat the olive oil over medium in large pot. Add the onion and saute until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, another minute or 2.
  2. Add 6 cups of chicken broth, tomatoes, and any longer-cooking vegetables (ie potatoes, carrots, winter squash, parsnips, broccoli, bay leaf, a generous pinch of salt, black pepper, and the Parmesan rind (if using). Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat until the broth simmers and cook 10 minutes until the vegetables are nearly tender.
  3. Add the beans, any quicker cooking vegetables (ie zucchini, bell peppers, or asparagus), and the uncooked pasta. Continue to at a high simmer another 15-20 minutes or until the veggies and pasta are cooked through. Add more broth, as needed.
  4. Add the greens and cooked meat/poultry (if using) and cook just until heated through. Taste and add salt and black pepper to taste. Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaves before serving.
  5. Serve with Parmesan cheese to grate or shave over the top.

Recipe Notes

If you have leftover cooked pasta, feel free to use that in place of the uncooked pasta and add it at the very end of cooking the soup. Figure you'll need about 2 cups of cooked pasta. You can also use leftover rice, barley, or other grains in place of pasta if you happen to have that on hand.


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