A minestrone that’s packed to the hilt with fresh green veggies, made extra tasty with dollops of pesto sauce, and finished off with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. I also give you one more tip on how to boost the flavour even more.
If you thought that the hot desert climate of Dubai would stop me from ordering a steaming, hot bowl of soup, think again.
Having settled into our hotel, due to an unplanned 18-hour stop over (not a typo, it really was 18 hours), my husband and l found ourselves in an Italian restaurant. Why Italian when we could have chosen any number of restaurants specialising in the exquisite delicacies of Middle Eastern cuisine?
In one word, exhaustion! The heat, the inconvenience and the fatigue meant that we weren’t going to be that fussy about where we ate.
Ignoring the searing heat, l chose Green Minestrone Soup with Pesto. Being the first time l had ever had a green minestrone, l was so knocked out by the flavours and heartiness of the soup, that l pulled out my notebook and wrote down what l thought was a close approximation of the recipe. And here it is!!
What goes in a Green Minestrone Soup with Pesto
The Veggies: You really can’t go wrong when selecting green veggies for this soup. Do be mindful though, to add your veggies according to how long they take to cook.
The size you cut your veggies will also influence the cooking time; l have taken that into account in my instructions. In this recipe l’ve used:
- green beans
- baby spinach
Although l didn’t add it, cabbage is also a great choice for this soup.
The Pasta: My tip here is to go small when selecting your pasta. Risoni, elbow pasta or small macaroni as seen in my photos are ideal.
The Beans: Cannellini or Butter beans added towards the end of the cooking process are perfect in a minestrone.
Making Green Minestrone Soup Extra Tasty
The Pesto Sauce: To bring out the best in this soup, you need to add flavour. Two or three big dollops of pesto sauce will not only add flavour but also give the soup a bit of body.
Parmesan Rind: This is simply the hard end bit of a block of parmesan cheese. Most people tend to throw it out, which is a shame because it contains so much flavour. Delicatessens sometimes sell rinds separately or you can just cut off the end of your parmesan block of cheese and add it to your soup.
Seasoning: ‘No salt, no taste’, is what my mother always told me. Salt brings out flavour, so make sure your soup is suitably seasoned with salt and pepper.
Even though l missed out on experiencing Emirati cuisine that evening, l made up for it the next day!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 tsp garlic, chopped
- 1/3 cup diced celery
- pinch of salt
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 medium zucchini (note 1)
- 1 medium potato, diced
- 1 broccoli head cut into florets (note 2)
- 20 green beans (note 3)
- 3/4 cup small pasta (note 4)
- 1 x 400 g / 14 oz tin cannellini beans (note 5)
- 1/3 cup peas (note 6)
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 – 3 tbsp homemade or store bought pesto sauce (note 7)
- optional extra flavour tip: parmesan rind (note 8)
- Heat oil over moderate low heat in a medium sized pot. Add the onion, garlic, celery and a pinch of salt. Saute until the onion is soft and translucent (6 – 8 mins).
- Turn up the heat to moderate. Add the chicken stock, zucchini, diced potato, broccoli, green beans and parmesan rind. Simmer until veggies are almost cooked through (5 – 7 mins).
- Add the pasta and cannellini beans. Simmer until pasta is al dente (cooked, but still a little firm in the centre).
- Add the peas. Simmer for another 2 minutes.
- Remove pot from the stove. Stir through the baby spinach.
- Add 2 – 3 tbsp pesto sauce to the soup. Stir until mixed through. Have a taste. Add salt and pepper as required.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. You will need some crunchy bread too!
- Cut the ends off the zucchini. Slice in half lengthways. Cut each zucchini at 2 cm / 3/4″ intervals at a slight angle (if you want to be fancy).
- I separate my broccoli head into smaller florets, the same size as the sliced zucchini.
- Cut the ends off the green beans. Slice the beans at 1.5 cm / 1/2″ intervals.
- Small pasta is perfect for this soup as it cooks quickly. Risoni, elbow pasta or even small macaroni is suitable. Large size pasta would take too long to cook and would dominate the soup.
- Rinse cannellini beans before adding them to the soup.
- I use thawed, frozen peas.
- My homemade pesto sauce is super easy to make and adds loads of flavour to this soup. Lightly toast 30 g / 1 oz pine nuts. Set aside. Place 2 bunches (70 g / 2 1/2 oz) basil, 1 tsp finely grated garlic, pine nuts, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp lemon juice and 1/2 cup olive oil in a food processor. Blend until combined. Add 60 g / 2 oz grated parmesan cheese. Process for another 10 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning. It’s now ready for the soup!
- A parmesan rind is the hard, end bit of a block of parmesan cheese. Some delicatessens sell rinds, so it’s worth asking. Otherwise, cut the end bit from your block of parmesan cheese and add it to the soup. You can remove it when the soup is ready, but l tend to leave it in.