A green minestrone—one unsullied by tomatoes—is Nigella Lawson’s favorite. The recipe that follows is a remarkably low-effort version with a generous yield: a minor episode of chopping is the prelude to a warming and sustaining meal for many. She specifies that the zucchini should be half-peeled, by which she means taking a vegetable peeler and shaving the skin off in strips, so that you end up with dark- and light-green striped zucchini (it’s how her mother always peeled hers). As for the rest of the veggies, you can really use any you want, treating what’s below as a guide, in which case work on a ratio—give or take—of 6 cups of water per 2 1/4 lb. of vegetables.
For normal weeknights, when you may have less of a crowd to feed, you might prefer to halve quantities, though you can still use the whole potato. But don’t rush to downsize: Nigella loves this a day or two on, when the pasta’s cooled in the soup and you’re left with a thick vegetable stew stuffed with billowing soft pasta parcels to be reheated gently but thoroughly.
- 3 Tbs. garlic-flavored oil
- Leaves from a few fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 3 cups frozen petits pois
- 2 leeks, about 8 oz. total, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 baking potato, about 8 oz., peeled and finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 2 large zucchini, about 1 lb. total, half-peeled and finely diced
- 8 oz. green beans, trimmed and cut into short lengths
- 2 quarts cold water
- 2 tsp. kosher salt or 1 tsp. table salt, or to taste
- 2 cans (each 15 oz.) cannellini or flageolet beans, drained and
- 1 lb. fresh spinach-and-ricotta tortelloni
- Leaves from 1 small bunch fresh basil (about 1 cup, packed)
- 2 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Warm the oil in a large, heavy saucepan (that has a lid), stirring in the thyme.
Add the peas and turn them in the garlic-flavored oil, then add the leeks, potato, celery, zucchini and green beans and stir in the heat of the pan.
Pour in the water, add the salt, put the lid on the pan and let come to a boil, then remove the lid and let everything bubble until the vegetables—check the potato particularly—are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. You could let the soup stand at this stage; if you are planning to finish it within an hour or so, put the lid on to keep in the heat. Otherwise, it is better to let it cool swiftly before reheating.
Remove 3 ladlefuls of the soup mixture, trying to scoop up more vegetables and less liquid, and place in a blender (or in a large bowl if you’re using an immersion blender) and set aside.
Add the cannellini or flageolet beans to the pan and bring back to a boil, then add the tortelloni and bring to a boil again. Turn off the heat.
Add the basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano to the reserved vegetables in the blender or bowl and blend to a vibrant green puree. Scrape this back into the pan, stirring it into the soup. Let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes before eating. Serves 8.
Adapted from Nigellissima, by Nigella Lawson (Clarkson/Potter Publishers, 2012).