Tuscan Bean Minestrone Soup with an herb pesto, for cooler Florida nights

A big bowl of soup full of vegetables and beans is just what we crave this time of year.
Published Jan. 14, 2019

Minestrone means "thick soup" in Italian, and a big bowl of soup full of vegetables and beans is just what I crave this time of year. Our Florida cold snaps get me in the mood to get the soup on.

This soup is great for a meatless meal, but you can also add chicken or Italian sausage pieces. You could use cooked pasta instead of the rice if you like. I like orecchiette (a hat-shaped pasta), but any small pasta will work.

Zucchini is sauteed separately and added at the end of the cooking time so it stays crisp and green when serving the soup.

The pesto I've created is added at the end, too, to enrich the soup. And then a dollop is added as a topping to serve. My twist for this basil pesto is honey. Also, using both lemon juice and zest in the pesto adds a zing to the flavor and helps keep the basil and parsley green. Mangia!


Tuscan Bean Minestrone Soup With Basil Parsley Pesto

For the Basil Parsley Pesto:

1 cup packed whole fresh basil leaves

½ cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves, no stems

¼ cup good olive oil

¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 whole lemon, juice and zest

2 tablespoons honey

Salt to taste

For the soup:

3 tablespoons good olive oil

2 cups sweet onion, diced

2 cups potatoes, diced

2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick

1 cup sliced celery

4 whole garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

2 (32-ounce) cartons chicken broth, or vegetable broth

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups water

½ cup fresh Italian parsley, leaves only, coarsely chopped

2 medium green zucchini, skin on, cut in half, seeds removed, cut in

White or brown basmati rice, for serving

Parmesan cheese, for serving

Make the pesto: Add all the pesto ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just until smooth. Add salt to taste.

Cover and aside while the soup is simmering.

Make the soup: In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, basil and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste. Saute just until soft but not browned; about 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes, cannellini beans, water and fresh parsley. Bring to a slow boil and then simmer partially covered for 45 minutes. Skim the foam off the top of the soup.

While the soup is simmering: In a nonstick skillet on medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the sliced zucchini. Saute just until soft but still crisp and green. Set aside.

After the soup cooks for about 45 minutes, add the sauteed zucchini and 4 tablespoons of the prepared pesto. Reserve the remaining pesto for topping the soup when serving. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle a good portion of soup in a deep pasta bowl. Top with a portion of cooked white or brown basmati rice, if you'd like. Top with a dollop of pesto and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4.

Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski