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Summer Minestrone alla Genovese

Soup isn’t what you generally reach for on a deliciously warm summer day –  I know. So I fully expect you to squint your eyes and look at me sideways when I tell you this soup might just be an exception. First of all, it’s chock-belly full of summer-speaking vegetables – new green beans, zucchini, asparagus, fava beans, and fresh peas – so brightly green and clean and fresh! And to move it into the realm of being satisfying – you know what I mean –  some small, sweet new potatoes and the option of some tiny orzo pasta. And then spooned over top and swirled in, radiant bright basil pesto.  I’d say this soup has a lot to recommend it: it’s the very color of new summer; it’s loaded with healthful vegetables; it fills you in a pleasant way; it’s pretty to look at; and it’s probably even better served luke warm! Served alongside some fresh focaccia, and oh! my! good!

Summer Minestrone alla Genovese

serves 6 to 8

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound (or slightly more) new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 quart good chicken or vegetable stock
  • 5 ounces slender green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 5 ounces slender, small asparagus, halved lengthwise, or larger asparagus cut into approximately 2-inch lengths
  • 2 pounds 3 ounces fava beans, shelled and peeled, or 5 ounces frozen
  • 11 ounces fresh peas, shelled or 5 ounces frozen petite peas
  • 2 zucchini, cut into smallish cubes
  • 5 ounces orzo (optional)
  • salt

for the pesto:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 ounces fresh basil, stalks removed
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, freshly grated, plus more for serving
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a large wide saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion, garlic, celery and potatoes together on medium-low for about 10 minutes.

Add the stock to the pan, bring to a boil, then simmer gently for about 10 minutes. (Add some salt at this point, and add more to taste before serving.) Add fava beans and cook 5 minutes before adding the green beans and asparagus. (If using fresh peas, add now. If using frozen peas, add them in the very last minute of cooking.) If adding orzo, do so at the same time as the other green vegetables. Alternately, you can cook the orzo in a separate pot of salted, boiling water – drain it and add it when the vegetables are tender. (This assures that everything will be perfectly done at the same time.)

Meanwhile, prepare the basil pesto – either using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, combine all the ingredients except for the oil. When these ingredients are completely smooshed to your satisfaction, begin slowly adding olive oil until you have a thick green and savory emulsion.

Stir one tablespoon or so of the pesto into the pot of soup and ladle into bowls. Dollop another teaspoonful pesto into each bowlful as you serve. Pass the Parmesan.

HINT: Because these vegetables are not going to be sitting in the liquid for long and therefore won’t be imparting all their flavorful-ness to the stock, it’s important to begin with a high quality, good-tasting soup base. If you’re in doubt as to which ones to use, there are a number of sources on-line that have rated various brands and you might find that helpful. Once soup-season hits, I’ll be sharing quite a number of delicious soups and will also talk about making your own (superior) stock!

This recipe has been slightly adapted from one in Nigella Lawson’s book, Nigella Fresh

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ashley #

    Mama, how DO you keep doing this? Gorgeous and sounds surprisingly good on a hot night. Love the red.

    June 21, 2011
  2. This is the kind of soup I long for everyday. I would even eat it for breakfast. I saw the photo and knew alla Genovese and me were meant for each other. Now, Spree, I haven’t used fava beans much…is there any trick to them?

    Also can’t wait to get the stock-making lesson!

    Incidentally, a few months ago The Oregonian rated Wolfgang Puck’s organic chicken stock among the best.

    June 21, 2011
    • C, thanks so much for your exuberant compliments! They make me smile every time. : ) Great hint on chicken stock too – thanks for that!
      As for favas – they’re a hoot! You’ll notice from the recipe ingredients that 35 total ounces of favas in their shells yields only 5 ounces of beans! I took some photos of them for this post, but they’re such homely things from the outside that I ended up not including them. They do get cuter and cuter the deeper you go though. So – they look like a big, ugly cousin to the sugar snap pea. Pods are about 6 inches or so long. When you open the pod, you’ll see a fuzzy bedding housing maybe 3 or 4 beans – surprisingly few – and those beans still have clothes on! The easiest way to get down to the emerald little gem of a bean beneath is to blanch them, boiling water for a minute or so. Then drop into cold water. With your fingernail or a little knife make a little cut in the outer layer at the seam and then squeeze the little fava out! They’re a brilliant green, beautiful. Nutty, buttery, num.

      June 22, 2011
  3. Thank you, thank you. I look forward to getting to know this homely bean. 🙂

    June 24, 2011

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