Making Homemade Pesto and Minestrone Soup
Minestrone is an Italian word meaning “the big soup” - what an accurate description that is! It starts with vegetables like carrots and celery, which along with onions form the base of the stock as well as add texture. Those are usually joined by pasta or rice. Some people add meat, but beans are most often the source of protein in this nutrition-packed delight.
My first attempt at minestrone was about six years ago - a special request for the 50th anniversary party of my husband's parents. Since his mother’s family came from Italy, my husband thought it would be fun to have a big batch of soup as the main dish of the luncheon. It definitely was a great idea, but a little intimidating, too.
Not sure how much to make, I tripled the recipe. It took a couple of hours just to chop all the vegetables - I was surrounded by piles on every inch of counter space! Later, as the soup bubled away in two giant pots, my house filled up with it's wonderful scent. All the work was absolutely worth it - my mother-in-law was thrilled, and so was I.
Since then, I’ve looked for ways to streamline the prep process. Frozen and canned veggies have come to the rescue on occasion - I look for varieties that are lower in sodium content or salt-free.
Also, I try to have the basics like olive oil, broth, and onions on hand, and then just grab whatever I need from my freezer or pantry. That way I don’t have to make a special trip to purchase ingredients. And the soup is delicious no matter which vegetables go in it.
The version I originally made includes pesto, so I've listed the instructions for easy homemade pesto below. The fresh garlic and basil brighten up the soup’s flavor. From this base, you can adapt it to include your favorite vegetables and seasonings.
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1/2 cup walnuts
5 medium cloves of garlic
2 1/2 cups of basil leaves
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Place walnuts, garlic and basil in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Run for about 20-30 seconds, until everything is finely chopped. Add salt and pepper. Run processor again, pouring the olive oil through the feeder until it fully blends. Add the parmesan cheese and pulse several times. Use right away, or store in an airtight container, covering it with a drizzle of olive oil.
Note: It’s great to have ready-made pesto on hand, because it can be used so many ways. Great by itself on pasta, it can also add pizzaz to baked chicken or fish. Cut up some fresh tomatoes and mozzerella cheese, then pour a dollop of pesto on top for an appetizer!
Here's Gordon Ramsey's Take On Minestrone Soup
Basic Homemade Minestrone Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large carrot, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock or water (or combination)
1 28 ounce can whole or diced tomatoes with juice
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
1 cup green beans
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup peas
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans
1/2 cup small pasta (any shape)
2 Tbsp pesto (packaged or homemade - see recipe below)
1 Tbsp dried parsley (optional)
Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Cook the onion for about 3 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and carrot, sauteing for one minute. Pour in the stock or water and bring to a boil. Add the rest of the vegetables, pasta and pesto, and bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down. Put the parsley, salt and pepper in, and let the soup simmer uncovered for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally. If the consistency gets too thick for your liking, add water.
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