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)
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