Friday, January 10, 2014

Tuscan-Style Vegetable Soup: Minestrone alla Genovese

On a cold winter's night, there's nothing more satisfying than a bowl of steaming hot minestrone soup and a loaf of crusty Italian bread to warm the soul and please the palate. Unfortunately, many vegetable soups are thin and tasteless. But Minestrone alla Genovese, an Italian vegetable soup with a healthy dollop of pesto swirled in before serving, is a hearty soup bursting with fresh flavors. You can use just about any vegetables in this recipe but I like to add onions, carrots, celery, zucchini, and green beans. You can add potatoes, too, but I'm not a big fan as they add a starchiness that I simply don't like.

I start my soup by sautéing a few puréed vegetables in olive oil. It deepens the flavor and thickens the broth. I then slowly add the vegetables throughout the cooking process starting with thicker ones first (carrots) and ending with the thinner ones (zucchini). I simmer the soup for approximately three hours. A long, slow cooking time really enhances the complexity, melding the flavors seamlessly. Finally, just before serving I mix in fresh basil pesto sauce. It's garlicky kick livens the dish up.

a bowl of vegetable soup with a slice of bread
Minestrone alla Genovese

Purée carrots, celery, onion and garlic in food processor.
Purée one medium carrot, a stick of celery, one small onion, and three cloves of garlic in food processor. Sauté the puréed vegetables in about three tablespoons of olive oil in tall stock pot over medium heat until fragrant and soft, about 10 minutes. Add chopped leeks and sauté for several minutes more until just soft. 

Add approximately 6 quarts of water and turn heat up to high. Once soup reaches a boil, return heat to a low simmer and begin adding your vegetables. Carrots, celery and green beans first as they're the thickest and take longer to cook.

After about an hour and a half, add the softer vegetables like zucchini plus a 16-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, including juice, and a 16-ounce can of white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained. Simmer for approximately one and half hours more. Add salt and pepper to taste.

A few minutes before serving, add cooked pasta to your soup (I boil about 3/4 cup of a short pasta like ditalini separately) and swirl in about 1/3 cup of fresh basil pesto. Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese.

Minestrone alla Genovese
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks of celery, peeled and diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
12 oz. green beans, trimmed
1-16 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1-16 oz. can cannelllini beans, rinsed and drained 
2 zucchini, cut in half down the middle, and chopped
3/4 cup (dry) short pasta (ditalini or other)
1/3 cup fresh basil pesto
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Buon appetito!


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