This Milanese Minestrone Soup (Minestrone alla Milanese) is what you will find in a trattoria in Italy’s capital city of Milan. It’s a different kind of minestrone without tomatoes, however, it’s loaded with vegetables, herbs, beans and rice. Definitely not lacking in flavor as it gets a major flavor boost from a very secret and Italian ingredient. Read on to find out what the secret is…

A white bowl filled with minestrone soup with beans and vegetables

In typical Italian fashion, different regions of Italy have their own take on this popular soup. Minestrone simply translates to ‘big soup’. Seasonal vegetables are always used with a few variances, again, depending on what region of Italy you might be in.

A closeup of minestrone soup with beach, vegetables and grated Parmesan

Rice in Minestrone

My Autumn Minestrone Soup recipe (picture below) is more of the Roman-style using lots of vegetables, beef stock and pasta. This Milanese version uses herbs, cabbage, pancetta, chicken stock and rice that is lighter in color.  

Italian Arborio or carneroli rice is added towards the end of the cooking and this is what gives the soup it’s thick consistency.

Another version of minestrone soup from the coastal Liguria region near Turin, adds pesto.

Autumn minestrone in a grey bowl topped with grated Parmesan cheese

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

This Milanese minestrone soup is the perfect candidate to be made in the slow cooker because traditionally, the soup simmers for 1 ½ hours so why not take some help from the slow cooker?

A spoonful of vegetables from minestrone soup

Pork in Minestrone Soup

The soup is started with cooking pork, traditionally Guanciale (gwan-chall-eh) which is pork jowls or cheek. Since this is not always available to most of us, pancetta can also be used.

Viewed from overhead, a bowl of Milanese minestrone soup with bread

Parmesan Cheese for Flavor

Remember the secret and Italian ingredient I mentioned earlier? Here it is: the major flavor booster for this recipe is the rind from a Parmesan cheese wedge. Sounds simple, right? There are a couple of reasons for this, so make sure you don’t skip this step.

  • The rind of the wedge is used in the soup for amazing flavor. It’s the Italian soup secret to amazing flavor.
  •  Pre-grated cheese has no taste and who knows what cheese you’re buying. 

Freezing Minestrone Soup

Another nice thing is that this soup freezes so well. Just store it in a good, sealable Tupperware type tub in the freezer. When ready to reheat and enjoy again just microwave for a couple of minutes to loosen the soup from the container, then add to a saucepan to thoroughly heat through.

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Yield: 4

Milanese Minestrone Soup

A white bowl filled with minestrone soup with beans and vegetables

Lots of vegetables and beans slow cooked with a Parmesan cheese rind

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup/4 ounces (113 grams) pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2 cups (256 grams) yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 small garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
  • 4 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots. peeled and chopped
  • 1 large or 2 medium zucchini/courgette, chopped small
  • 1 ½ cups/12 ounces (340 grams) potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 2 cups/15 ounces (425 grams) peeled and chopped tomatoes, drained of the juice
  • 12 cups (3 liters) chicken broth/stock
  • Parmesan cheese wedge
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) arborio rice
  • 2 cups (178 grams) green cabbage, chopped
  • 2 cups/15 ounces (425 grams) cannellini beans, rinsed
  • Salt to taste


  1. To a large soup pan, add the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the pancetta and onions and cook until the onions are softened. Add the garlic and stir, cook for 1 minute. Add the celery, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, basil, parsley and sage. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock.
  3. Cut the rind (secret ingredient) off the Parmesan cheese and add to the soup.
  4. Bring to a simmer, partially cover with a lid and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, add the rice and cabbage, then simmer for 25 minutes until the rice is tender and the soup is thickened. The rice will absorb a lot of the liquid. If it's getting too thick add more broth/stock or water.
  6. Stir in the cannellini beans and remove the Parmesan rind.
  7. Taste for seasoning (depending how salty your chicken broth/stock is) and add salt if needed.
  8. Serve hot, topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 451Total Fat 6gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 8mgSodium 1100mgCarbohydrates 88gFiber 15gSugar 0gProtein 23g

This nutrition calculation is provided by Nutronix that is only a guideline and not intended for any particular diet.