Minestrone with Ligurian Pesto
Minestrone is an Italian classic, used by mammas and nonnas nationwide to sneak healthy vegetables into the diets of picky children. It is also beloved by grown-ups as a warming and nourishing comfort food. Mamma Ruffoni discovered this version from Liguria when visiting in the summer. The soup is served slightly cooler during those hot summer months, and a swirl of basil pesto lends a delicious pop of flavor. Minestrone is also a wonderful way to minimize food waste by incorporating whatever vegetables and legumes you have on hand. Use the ingredient list here as a guide, then add or substitute as you like.
- 5 oz. (150 g) fresh or 2 1/2 oz. (75 g) dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
- 1 tsp. baking soda (if using dried beans)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 leek, white and light green portions, rinsed well and finely diced
- 2 carrots, peeled, 1 finely diced and 1 chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 2 russet potatoes, chopped
- 3 1/2 oz. (100 g) pumpkin or summer squash, chopped
- 2 zucchini, chopped
- 4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) vegetable stock, preferably homemade
- 3 1/2 oz. (100 g) green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) lengths
- 2 oz. (50 g) baby spinach
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- About 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) basil pesto, preferably homemade
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving (optional)
If using dried borlotti beans, place them in a bowl, add cold water to cover and stir in the baking soda; soak overnight in the refrigerator, then drain and rinse. If using fresh beans, remove them from their pods. Place the dried or fresh beans in a large stockpot, add the bay leaf and cold water to cover and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender but not mushy, at least 40 minutes. Drain the beans and remove and discard the bay leaf; set the beans aside. Wipe out the stockpot.
In the same stockpot over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the finely diced carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped carrot, potatoes, pumpkin, zucchini and borlotti beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes or more, depending on the size of the vegetables. Add the green beans and spinach and cook until the beans are just tender and the spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top each serving with a spoonful of pesto, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serves 4.
Recipe courtesy of the Ruffoni family