Looking into the soups (Minestre, Minestrone, & Zuppe)

Minestre, Minestrone, Zuppa, Passato, Vellutata, Cream of …; they all traslate as “soups”, but there are differences. Often these terms are used as synonyms, but “minestra” –> “minestrone”, “soup” –> “passato”, “cream” –> “vellutata” are not the same. 

The difference? 

All in ingredients such as pasta or cereals, and binders like dairy or fat. It can then be started from the same vegetables, but the final product can be very light, as in a “passato” or a generic soup with greens, rich or with a high-nutrient value.

Here is a small technical dictionary – although sometimes disproportionately disproved by regional recipes, which traditionally use different names.

The Classic Soup or “Minestra”

The soup takes its name from the Latin “minestrare”,  or administrate, because it is [was] served by the head of the family. It is usually a broth, either vegetable or from meat, it may contain cerals such as rice, or pasta. The grand classic is with the small tortellini, which can have various names (but that will be another story). 

The soup is more liquid, in Lombardy, is prepared with the addition of rice, while in Veneto and Emilia Romagna with pasta or cappelletti. Chinese noodles or Japanese ramen are technically “minestre”.

Minestrone, … another Soup

A middle way between minestra and zuppa, born after the discovery of America and the introduction into the kitchen of some basic ingredients such as potatoes, corn, and beans, which before existed in the “New World.” Consistent and rich, the “minestrone” may also be added a cereal or pasta [strictly ditalini] – like in the classic minestrone of legumes.

Zuppa, … again “Soup”

What we call “zuppa” has the vegetables, but no rice or pasta, but it can be served with croutons, more or less large. The soup has a dense and consistent aspect, little liquid part is absorbed by the bread or croutons.

The soup is widely used in Tuscany, with black cabbages as the main vegetable, Calabria and Sicily based on legumes and fava beans, in Sardinia with the addition of cheese. Borsch is technically a “zuppa”, the famous “soupe a l’oignon” or the various “Fish stews” are all “zuppa”.


Like the above, passato (or passata) is a set of vegetables, without pasta or cereal but with croutons instead, which is whisked at high speed. Once upon a time by hand – hence its consistency was determined by the type of meshes used to strain “the vegetables”.


It is made up of only 2, maximum 3 types of vegetables, traditionally potato – leek, courgettes, carrot – potatoes. To bind ingredients and give it a more appetizing and soft structure, at the end of cooking, cooking cream or egg yolks are added.


This preparation is defined with one main ingredient, whisked and bound by rice or milk. Cream of broccoli, cream of asparagus, cream of carrots. 

Recipes will follow. 

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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