Genovese Minestrone with Spinach Pesto
A Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup
- Servings: 4.
This is a classic vegetable minestrone that can be made with homemade or store bought beef or chicken stock. What makes it Genovese is the addition of a spoonful of pesto, which in this case is made with spinach instead of basil. While you could use basil pesto, keep in mind that fresh basil has a stronger flavor than spinach so use a bit less when you add it to the soup.
I like to add small pasta, cooked separately, to the hot soup just before serving. But it could be equally nice with the addition of cooked rice.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 small to medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 leek, the white and tender green parts only, diced; wash very carefully before using
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat leafed parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 14 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, preferably San Marzano, chopped or squished in your hand into small pieces
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces (2 medium-sized Yukon Gold, Red Bliss or any boiling potato or a single, large baking potato)
- 1 10-oz. package frozen green beans; I like to use the kind cut into long strands called "French cut"
- 6 cups homemade or good quality boxed beef or chicken stock
- 1 cup dried small pasta, such as ditali
- 1 cup canned red kidney beans or chick peas; drained and rinsed first
- Spinach Pesto:
- 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach that's been defrosted and well drained or a bag of fresh baby spinach that's been cooked, drained and cooled
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano plus 1/2 cup extra for passing at the table
- Using a large stock or soup pot, heat the olive oil until it shimmers.
- Add the garlic, onion, leek, parsley and thyme plus a generous pinch of salt. Cook over a medium heat until the onion is transparent and soft.
- Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, celery, carrots, potatoes and beans or chick peas. Stir to combine.
- Add the stock and several grinds of fresh pepper.
- Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer, putting a cover almost entirely but leaving a bit of an opening on the pot so that the soup simmers without cooking off too much liquid. Simmer like this for about 1 hour.
- When ready to serve, separately cook the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions.
- Add the cooked pasta to the soup.
- Taste and correct the seasonings.
- To Make The Pesto:
- Combine all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until it forms a paste. You may need to use a spatula to wipe down the sides of the processor to keep all the ingredients combined.
- Serve with a generous spoonful of the pesto and a dusting of grated cheese.
Tip: If the canned tomatoes come with a sprig of basil, discard the basil before using the tomatoes.
Tip: Sometimes a few shots of Tabasco or other hot sauce is a better way to add pepper flavor than grated pepper because it adds head and taste without the small black flecks.
Tip: Frozen spinach can hold onto excess water, even if it's been defrosted and drained. The best way to wring out the water is with your clean hands. The drier your spinach, the better the pesto.
Tip: When making pesto, I usually begin by putting whole or halved cloves of garlic into the food processor, letting the machine mince the garlic before adding the other ingredients. This saves me the step of mincing the garlic by hand. If you put the whole cloves in with all the other ingredients, you don't get as fine a mince.