Olive Juice, I Love You! Rainbow Minestrone Soup

Rainbow Minestrone Soup https://trimazing.com

We are a house divided here at the Lakehouse. I love olives—but Alan hates them. It doesn’t matter if they are the mild canned black olives or the briny ones from an olive bar, Alan won’t eat them, nor capers. Now, I understand the dislike of green olives, they can be kind of bitter, in fact, I didn’t learn to savor those until adulthood, but not liking mild canned black olives?!? Well, no biggie, I guess, just more for me! I still use them, olives of all sorts, and Alan just picks them out and gives them to me.

My Grandma Grace was a fabulous cook. In fact, she was a cook in a junior high school for the Seattle School District, back when schools actually made meals for kids. Her recipes were written for huge crowds of school kids, so you have to transpose them from using #10 cans into family-sized amounts. One of my favorite things she used to make was her Minestrone Soup. This was the dish she commonly made when we had family gatherings, probably because it was fairly hands-off, made a lot, and was full of inexpensive ingredients. Not only that, it was full of things kids love to eat (hence a school lunch recipe) and delicious, so she must have known the grandkids would gobble it up too.

But Grandma Grace’s Minestrone Soup was unlike any other Minestrone I’ve ever had. In fact, hers was the first minestrone I ever had and it wasn’t until years later that I had someone else’s, and I was confused that theirs was even called Minestrone—because there were no black olives in it! That was the secret to Grandma’s amazing Minestrone Soup, olives and olive juice. Yes, you read that right, you use a whole can of olives and the juice in this recipe! No Minestrone has ever stacked up to hers due to the lack of olives! I mean, how can you even eat Minestrone without wearing olive fingers?!?

Olive fingers. https://trimazing.com

Olives used to fit better on my fingers when I was a kid!!

But her soup was admittedly not vegan. It started with a base of beef stew meat. So going vegan meant walking away from this amazing soup. But ten years later, I was really missing it and decided it was time to update Grandma’s Minestrone. To replace the stew meat I chose butternut squash. I’d considered mushrooms but was afraid they’d get waterlogged and soggy. Since the recipe called for carrots, I was afraid the soup would be too orange with carrots and winter squash, so I opted for purple carrots from a local farm stand. With those two ingredients chosen, I was suddenly inspired by the concept of eating a rainbow, something I teach to kids at my Power of Produce booth at the farmers market during the summer to inspire them to eat their fruits and veggies. So green zucchini changed to yellow summer squash. And then I added spinach. Grandma’s soup did not have any greens in it and I love greens such as kale, spinach, chard, etc. in my soups, so I added that. Instead of kidney beans, I used scarlet runner beans I’d dried from our garden.

Prepped rainbow of veggies for Rainbow Minestrone Soup https://trimazing.com

Prepped rainbow of veggies for Rainbow Minestrone Soup.

But the beef broth? The broth was so essential in her soup and I knew I needed to find a way to bring that flavor into my veganized version. I played around with different things and finally landed on adding Bragg’s aminos (you could use soy sauce or tamari), nutritional yeast, vegan Worchestershire sauce (I make this recipe from Penniless Parenting) , garlic and onion powders, and salt and pepper to it my veggie stock. I mixed it together and let it set for about 30 minutes before straining it to remove any of the spice solids.

The beauty of this soup is that it’s cooked primarily in the oven. The original was done completely in the oven, but since I switched to the squash cubes from stew meat, I needed to do the start on the stove top and then transfer to the oven. Things are added in stages, starting with sauteing the squash with sliced leeks and chopped garlic with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf in a little beefy veggie stock in a large, ovenproof Dutch oven. You want to get some browned bits on the bottom of the pan. This step adds flavor to the squash and a base layer of flavor to the pan.

Sauteeing squash cubes with aromatics with a little bit of veggie stock.

Next you add the beefy veggie stock, water, Italian seasoning, tomatoes and their juice, beans, olives and the juice, and carrots. I used scarlet runner beans that I grew in our garden, but red kidney beans is what my grandma used. Put the lid on the pot and bake in a 350˚F oven for 30 minutes. Then stir in uncooked pasta, small shells, macaroni, twists, or other small soup pasta, and sprinkle the summer squash on top. Cover and bake another 30 minutes. Then remove, stir in ribbons of your choice of greens, and serve!

Rainbow Minestrone Soup

Oh it’s so good! The purple carrots gave the soup a gorgeous purple-red hue similar to borscht, which I loved! Using orange carrots, if you cannot find purple ones, would not have this same color, but it would be just as delicious. The soup tasted just how I remembered Grandma Grace’s, even without the beef. Cue happy dance!

Oh, and did you know that when you say “olive juice” it looks just like “I love you” when lip reading?


Rainbow Minestrone Soup https://trimazing.com
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5 from 1 vote

Rainbow Minestrone Soup

This soup is knock-your-socks-off good! Adapted from an old recipe of my grandmother's, it uses the secret ingredient of olive juice for umami! Orange winter squash, purple carrots, yellow summer squash, and green spinach give the colors of the rainbow.
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian, Kids, Nut-Free
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 6 people
Author Cindy Thompson, MS, NBC-HWC | Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching


"Beefy" Veggie Stock

Rest of Soup

  • 1 butternut or other winter squash peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 leeks white and light green sections thinly sliced
  • 1 large clove garlic minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 28 oz can chopped tomatoes and juice
  • 1 1/2 cups drained and rinsed scarlet runner or red kidney beans
  • 15 oz can whole black olives and juice
  • 1 1/2 cup thinly sliced purple carrots or orange if you cannot find purple
  • 2 cups yellow summer squash or green zucchini, thinly sliced into half moon shape
  • 1 cup small shell macaroni or other small soup pasta, gluten-free if sensitive
  • 1 bunch spinach, kale, Swiss chard, or other hearty green of choice sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons, about 4 cups


  • Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  • Make the Beefy Vegetable Stock. Combine all of the stock ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and then take off the heat. Let set for 15 minutes and then strain to remove any solids so you get a clear broth. Set aside.
  • Prep your veggies.
  • Heat a large, ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the butternut squash, leeks, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf and saute. Add a little beefy veggie stock if things start to stick. You want to get some browned bits on the bottom of the pan. This step adds flavor to the squash and a base layer of flavor to the pan.
  • When the squash and pan get a little color and the leeks are soft, add your strained Beefy broth, water, Italian seasoning, tomatoes, beans, can of olives and their juice, and carrots. Stir to incorporate any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cover and put into preheat oven for 30 minutes.
  • Add pasta and stir. Sprinkle sliced summer squash on top. Cover and bake another 30 minutes.
  • Remove pot from the oven. Add the ribbons of greens and stir to incorporate. Let set a few minutes so the greens wilt before serving.

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