- I made the minestrone recipe from a Blue Zone region linked to a longer, healthier life.
- The soup is healthy, delicious, and simple to make, but takes a little prep time.
- It’s nutritious, full of protein and fiber, and I’ll definitely add it to my recipe rotation.
Soup isn’t just a great recipe for chilly autumn days — it could also be an evidence-based way to live a longer life, according to a longevity researcher.
To find out if eating healthfully is also delicious, I tested out a recipe for minestrone based on a traditional meal eaten in Sardinia, Italy, a region known as a Blue Zone where residents have the highest rates in the world of living to 100 (or older).
The Blue Zones diet is mostly plant-based and high in carbohydrates, according to Dan Buettner, an author and explorer who pioneered research on Blue Zones, featured in a recent Netflix docuseries.
The Blue Zones minestrone recipe is full of ingredients known for boosting longevity, including beans, olive oil, and herbs.
While it takes a while to make, it’s not a difficult recipe, and I ended up with a hearty and healthy meal I couldn’t stop eating.
The recipe is time consuming, but easy and worth the prep work
Blue Zones cuisines are known for featuring vegetables as the main star of a meal.
The minestrone calls for a lot of veggies — chopping them all and cleaning up took about 45 minutes and I got through about half of the 2023 camp hit “Cocaine Bear” (“based on a true story!”) while doing so.
I’ll admit, I measured the garlic with my heart instead of a teaspoon. Then, I mixed in the basil, parsley, and fennel and the soup started to smell delicious.
Once everything was in the pot, I had about 90 minutes to make another cup of coffee and get through some emails and other work stuff. As it was simmering, my partner repeatedly walked through the kitchen to ask what I was making and when we could eat. Only another hour to wait!
When I added the pasta (couscous, since I couldn’t find fregula), I could see the soup was already beginning to thicken as the veggies cooked down. Per the recipe tip, I also added some bonus veggies in the form of zucchini from the farmer’s market and spinach that was getting lonely at the back of my fridge.
By the time the minestrone soup was ready, I was super excited to dig in, and opted to serve it with extra basil, the olive oil suggested in the recipe, and romano cheese (which I also measure with my heart, because cheese is important).
I immediately understood why Buettner’s research on Blue Zones prompted him to eat more soup. He’s right, it is an incredibly compelling meal.
After the first bite, it was clear that this soup absolutely slaps, to use a technical term from science journalism. It’s complex, with a deep richness from the beans, tomatoes, and root vegetables, while maintaining a beautiful fresh flavor from the herbs. I would not be mad to eat this soup every day for lunch, if anyone would like to support my move to Sardinia right away.
As a nutrition nerd, I’m also happy with the nutrients in the dish, since it’s full of fiber and protein from the beans, and tons of vitamins from all the veggies.
The soup is a great example of how to make vegetables taste delicious, particularly for people without a lot of cooking experience, since there’s a good balance of aromatics and seasonings included in the recipe.
Minestrone pairs well with other longevity staples like wine
I enjoyed my soup with a piece of bread, because I love carbs and because, like Buettner, I’m from Minnesota and therefore firmly believe bread goes with every meal.
I opted for sourdough, another staple in Sardinian kitchens, to stay on theme. Sourdough is also more nutritious than other types of bread and less likely to spike blood sugar levels because of the fermentation process.
The flavorful, herbaceous soup would have been great with a glass of wine, and research suggests drinking wine in moderation can be healthy, especially with a good meal. I did not test this hypothesis since it was early afternoon on a workday (but mostly because I was out of wine).
I’d recommend the recipe to anyone trying to eat more veggies, and it’s great for beginners
If you’re looking for an easy way to make healthy, plant-based meals without a lot of kitchen experience, this minestrone is a good starting point.
It does take a bit of a time investment up front in prepping the veggies, but the payoff is a healthy meal for a large group (or enough leftovers for several days).
If I made this recipe again, I would use canned beans which are just as healthy and more convenient than dried, according to registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix. I had to plan ahead by soaking the beans overnight
I’d also double the amount of beans, since I’m a hungry person and eat a lot to support my fitness habits. The recipe said it serves up to 10 people, but that’s about six portions for gym rats.
Overall, the minestrone feels like a win, and I’ll definitely add it to my cold weather recipe rotation. I can’t tell if I’m any healthier after eating it, but it beats the hell out of other longevity strategies like $2 million dollar daily routines or infusions of teenager blood.
“Babe, I f***ing love this soup,” my partner said.