Very Vegetable Minestrone with Barley and Beans

Very Vegetable Minestrone with Barley and Beans

Minestrone soup is a great tasting way to warm the day and incorporate needed vegetables into your diet. Ancient Romans relied on this hearty vegetable soup as a staple in their diet. In fact, the term minestrone originates from the Latin verb minestrare meaning “that which is served.”

In Italy, minestrone recipes vary by region, but typically include beans, grains and seasonal vegetables. Our minestrone uses many traditional ingredients, including barley and beans. Barley is a member of the grass family and is grown throughout the world. It is one of the most popular cereal crops, surpassed only by wheat, corn and rice. Barley is a whole-grain packed with fiber and as such is a food that can help prevent colon cancer.

The beans add to the nutritional value, packed with both protein and fiber. Onions, carrots, potatoes and cabbage are classic winter soup vegetables providing rich flavor and hearty goodness. The herbs infuse the soup with a classic Italian taste and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese tops the soup off.

Serve the minestrone with some crusty whole-wheat bread and you have a great cancer-preventive meal. So, consistent with AICR’s recommendation to cover your plate – in this case bowl – with mostly healthy vegetables and whole grains, simmer up a nice batch of minestrone. Be sure to prepare a little extra because it makes great leftovers.

Very Vegetable Minestrone with Barley and Beans


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onions (including green stems)
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage (1 tsp. dried may be substituted)
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (1/2 tsp. dried may be substituted)
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley (1 tsp. dried may be substituted)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped Savoy cabbage
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 (14-oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
  • 1 medium potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 cup frozen, cut green beans
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


In large pot heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, sage, thyme, parsley and garlic. Sauté 5-6 minutes.

Add cabbage, salt, pepper and cannellini beans and stir. Add broth, bring to a boil and stir in potato and barley. Reduce heat and simmer, covered 20-22 minutes or until potato pieces are tender when pierced with a fork, gently stirring occasionally.

Stir in green beans. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish by sprinkling Parmesan cheese over top and serve.

Makes 4 servings. About 1½ cups per serving.

Per serving: 260 calories, 4 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 46 g carbohydrate,
12 g protein, 13 g dietary fiber, 452 mg sodium.

The Author:

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $95 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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