Italian for "soup," minestra most often describes a soup of medium thickness, frequently containing meat and vegetables. Minestrina ("little soup") is a thin broth, while ("big soup") refers to a thick vegetable soup that generally contains pasta and sometimes peas or beans. It's usually topped liberally with grated Parmesan cheese and is hearty enough to be considered a complete meal.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.