Minestrone with Fennel and Wild Garlic


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Each of the six villages in Sardinia’s blue zones area prides itself on recipes for both summer and winter minestrones; these chunky and hearty fresh vegetable soups are made and enjoyed year-round with in-season vegetables.

Not only do these fragrant soups provide several helpings of vegetables, but they also deliver a full daily dose of beans, my favorite longevity supplement. This bountiful dish is eaten for lunch every day by the world’s longest-lived family, the Melises (see their version on the next page).

In America, we tend to eat only fennel bulbs, but Sardinians take full use of the aromatic fronds, which are also rich in antioxidants. The fresh herbs and fennel give these hearty soups a fresh and sprightly lift. You can make any of these with canned beans, but using dried beans will result in a deeper flavor. And, as longevity scientist

Gianni Pes points out, a longer cooking time enhances the bioavailability of more nutrients, such as the lycopene in tomatoes, as well as carotenoids and other antioxidants.

Total Cook Time: 8 Hours if using dried beans; 90 minutes if using canned beans | Makes 8 Servings

Source: The Blue Zones Kitchen


¼ cup red beans, dried or canned (see preparation note)

¼ cup chickpeas, dried or canned (see preparation note)

¼ cup dried fava beans

¼ cup lentils

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 onion, chopped

1 bunch beet or Swiss chard leaves

2 fennel bulbs and stalks, washed and chopped

1 fresh tomato

2 garlic cloves

1 stalk celery, chopped

2 cups cubed pumpkin or other squash (zucchini, yellow, butternut, acorn)

4 to 5 stalks wild garlic, garlic scapes, or garlic chives

¼ cup fregula pasta

3 quarts water


If using dried beans:

  1. Soak beans at least 6 hours, or overnight; drain and rinse.
  2. Peel the fava beans by squeezing each one between your thumb and other fingers. The skins should slip off pretty easily.
  3. In a soup pot, simmer beans in water to cover for 45 minutes to 1 hour, adding lentils after 30 minutes.
  4. Drain beans and lentils. 

If using canned beans:

  1. Rinse and simmer beans and lentils in water to cover for 30 minutes, then drain.

For the minestrone:

  1. In large soup pot, combine beans with all vegetables in water and bring to a boil.
  2. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add fregula and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  4. Serve with crusty bread and a drizzle of olive oil.