This beef minestrone soup is a rich and hearty twist on the classic comfort food. Made super thick with tender shredded beef cheeks, vegetables and risoni, this is the ultimate winter recipe to help keep you feeling warm and cosy.
It has been a very long wet start to the year here in Brisbane, and across much of Queensland and New South Wales. And now that weather is combined with the lead into winter and I can’t think of anything better than rugging up indoors with a rich and hearty slow cooked meal.
This version of this absolute classic winter comfort food takes a few hours but the results are absolutely worth it. It’s a great meal for a lazy Sunday where you can put it on the stove then sit back on the couch with a cosy blanket and a good book and let the smells fill your home while you relax.
This particular recipe is one that my Husband started making a few years ago, hence the addition of beef cheek which is not something I usually cook with. The beef cheek cooks slowly in the broth and takes on so much flavour and the result is the most beautifully tender bits of shredded meat – it’s just so delicious.
To be fair, I’m using the word soup quite loosely for this recipe. It’s almost stew-like in its consistency thanks to the thickness from the risoni and the beef. I absolutely love it like this, but if you’re looking for a little bit more broth, then add a bit more water at the end to loosen it up.
This is also one of those recipes that reheats just as good, if not better, so it’s a great meal to make in advance or to enjoy the leftovers later in the week.
I keep things simple when serving with some slices of toasted sourdough bread, but if you wanted to make this a full meal for a family, I’d also serve a fresh green salad alongside it.
This recipe is full of delicious ingredients that are layered together to create a rich and bold soup that is the perfect comfort food for the cooler months.
- Beef cheeks – this tough cut of meat is slow cooked until perfectly tender and works so well in this dish. You can however use the same amount of any good stewing beef instead.
- Onions, carrots & celery – known as mirepoix, this is an essential flavour base for most soups.
- Garlic – continuing to build on that flavour base.
- Bacon – I find streaky bacon is the best for extra flavour.
- Canned tomatoes – we’re using canned cherry tomatoes here but crushed would also work. Use what you have on hand.
- Tomato paste – for extra richness and tomato flavour.
- Stock – beef or vegetable stock will work perfectly for this recipe so use what you have or prefer.
- Red wine – adds so much flavour and richness to the soup, however if you prefer you can leave it out and just use extra stock.
- Parmesan rind – a bit of a rogue ingredient, I’m asking you to keep the bit of the parmesan you usually throw away and instead add it to your soup. I always keep the rind to add to soup as they add so much extra flavour – there really is no substitute but you can of course leave it out and the soup will still have plenty of flavour.
- Risoni – also referred to as orzo, you can use any small pasta in minestrone, but I love using risoni.
As mentioned, the key to this recipe is the process of layering the flavours and building it up from the base. The good news is that you don’t need any special equipment, just a wooden spoon and a heavy pot.
Start by browning the beef cheeks. Heat some olive oil in the base of the pot, season the beef cheeks with salt and pepper and then sear the beef cheeks whole until the outside is browned. You’ll feel them tighten up and get a bit stiff but that’s ok. Remove them from the pot and let them rest on a plate.
Next, start building that flavour base. To the pot that you just cooked the beef in, add the onions, carrot and celery and saute for a few minutes until the vegetables are soft. Use your wooden spoon to scrape the bottom and collect any bits of browned meat that may have been left behind as this is flavour!
To this, add the chopped bacon and garlic and continue to cook. This is where it starts to smell so amazing.
Next, add in the tomato paste, oregano and red wine and mix, again scraping down the bottom and sides to make sure nothing has stuck. Let this boil for a couple of minutes which will help intensify the red wine flavour before turning down the heat and adding in the cans of tomatoes and stock.
Mix everything together and add back to the pot the beef cheeks, making sure they are fully submerged in the liquid. Add in the parmesan rind if using and bring it all to a gentle simmer.
Place the lid on and cook on low for 2-3 hours until the beef cheeks are soft and tender. Remove the beef from the pot and shred with two forks. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the beef cheeks, for me, it took 2.5 hours. Basically check on the soup regularly, give it a stir and give the beef cheeks a poke with your wooden spoon and when they break apart, it’s done.
While you’re shredding the meat, turn the soup up to a light boil and add the risoni and cook until tender, making sure to mix regularly to prevent the pasta from sinking to the bottom and sticking.
Add the shredded beef back into the pot and season everything with salt and pepper to taste. The soup will be quite thick thanks to the risoni, however you can add a little more water at this stage if you’d like it a bit thinner.
Find the parmesan rind and discard as you don’t really want this to end up in someone’s bowl and them trying to bite into it.
My preference for reheating is to do so in a saucepan over medium/low heat. Add a bit of water to the soup to loosen it up and mix well while heating.
You can of course use a microwave, but I’m never a fan of using them for reheating soups and stews as you end up with hot spots and it can be a little bit messy to keep stopping and stirring.
To make it vegetarian, skip the beef cheeks and bacon and replace with a can of cannellini beans and make sure to use vegetable stock.
Note that because you won’t be slow cooking the beef, the cooking time will be much less as you’ll only need it to cook as long as it takes for the vegetables to get soft.
You can use any cuts of meat that are perfect for slow cooking.
More winter soup recipes:
Healthy Vegetable Soup with Lentils and Barley
Pressure Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
Dairy-Free Potato and Leek Soup with Bacon Crumb
Golden Turmeric Sweet Potato Soup
Beef Minestrone Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 500-700 grams beef cheek
- 2 red onions
- 3 stalks celery
- 2 medium carrots
- 200 grams streaky bacon
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 x 400 gram cans cherry tomatoes
- 2 cups beef or vegetable stock
- 1 parmesan rind optional
- 100 grams risoni
- Salt and pepper to season
- Heat a large heavy based pot over medium/high heat and add the olive oil. Season the beef cheeks with salt and pepper and add to the pot, browning them on both sides. Remove from the pot and set aside on a plate.
- Prepare the vegetables by peeling and finely dicing the onion and garlic, and chopping the carrots and the celery. Dice the bacon as well and set aside.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot and saute for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are starting to soften. Add in the bacon and garlic and continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes until the bacon is browned.
- To the pot, add the tomato paste, oregano and red wine to the pot and using a wooden spoon, mix everything together, scraping the bottom to ensure no brown bits are stuck to the bottom.
- Let the wine boil for a minute or two before turning down the heat and adding in the cans of tomatoes and stock.
- Mix everything together and add back to the pot the beef cheeks, making sure they are fully submerged in the liquid. Add in the parmesan rind if using and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Place the lid on and cook on low for 2-3 hours until the beef cheeks are soft and tender. Remove the beef from the pot and shred with two forks.
- Turn the soup up to a light boil and add the risoni and cook until tender, making sure to mix regularly to prevent the pasta from sinking to the bottom and sticking. Add the shredded beef back into the pot and season with salt and pepper. The soup will be quite thick, however you can add a little more water at this stage if you’d like it a bit thinner. Find the parmesan rind and discard.
- Serve with fresh toasted bread and chopped parsley.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.
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