Summer Vegetable Minestra with Orzo and Arugula Pesto

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 6

A piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind simmered slowly in a broth releases the rich, savory character of the cheese itself into the liquid. The result is a deep, incredibly complex background against which summer vegetables and peppery arugula pesto really shine.


For the arugula pesto:

  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby arugula
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 leeks, about 1 lb. total
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • One 2-inch piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


To make the pesto, put the walnuts in a small fry pan and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

In a food processor, combine the walnuts, arugula, garlic and 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and process to a puree, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the motor running, slowly pour the remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil through the feed tube and process until a smooth sauce forms. Add the salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Transfer the pesto to a small bowl, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until needed.

Using a chef’s knife, trim off and discard the dark green tops of the leeks. Cut the white and pale green parts in half lengthwise and then cut each half crosswise into pieces 1/2 inch thick. Rinse well and drain. In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks, carrots and celery and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the tomatoes and the cheese rind. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer to blend the flavors, about 20 minutes.

Stir the 2 tsp. salt and the orzo into the broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is still slightly firm, about 9 minutes. Add the green beans and cook until bright green and tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove and discard the cheese rind.

Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, garnish each serving with arugula pesto and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Soup, by Adam Ried (Oxmoor House, 2008).

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