Minestrone alla Genovese with Pesto, a Lovely Soup for Spring Days

At the end of last week I took delivery of a large bag of amazingly fresh vegetables from Goodness Growing which I wanted to use quickly before their crunchy magic started to wain. Of course it’s too warm for heavy winter soups so I decided to make this (very loose) take on a classic Genoese minestrone which requires neither soffritto (I didn’t have any celery) nor stock. This recipe was given to me by my lovely friend Marco who resides in a tiny attic apartment in the heart of the beautiful city of Genoa – one of the most important ports on the Mediterranean – which is famous for a number of classic Italian sauces including the quintessential pesto (a recipe for which is included here), a garlic sauce called agliata, a lovely walnut sauce knowns as ‘salsa di nociand’ and the summery ‘pesto di fave’ made with fresh broad beans (fava).

Minestrone Soup

1 large courgette
3 medium carrots, peeled
2 medium potatoes, peeled
1 large leek, finely sliced and cut into half moons
100g of cavolo nero, finely sliced
100g of flower sprouts, roughly chopped (you could also use chard leaves, finely sliced)
1 can of finely chopped tomatoes, polpa
A generous pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (I always have these in my freezer)
2 cans of borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
100g of small pasta shapes (I used capellini)
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated, for garnishing (optional)

For the pesto:
80g basil leaves, picked
2 fat cloves of garlic
2 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
4 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns

How I make it

Rinse all the vegetables and cut the courgette, carrots and potatoes into equally sized small cubes. Place the vegetables into a large soup plan, add the leeks, cavolo nero and flower sprouts and cover with cold water, partially cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow everything to simmer together for 30 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, chilli flakes (if using) and the cheese rind to the pot and allow to simmer for a further 15 minutes, Then add the borlotti beans and simmer for 15 minutes more. Remove four ladles of the soup and blend before returning to the pot, this will thicken the soup a little.

Add the pasta and continue to simmer until it is cooked through, around 5-10 minutes depending on the size of pasta you use (if I’m using very small pasta as I did here, then I add it to the pan, take it straight off of the heat, cover and leave it to sit for an hour. The ambient heat in the soup will cook the pasta through).

Meanwhile, to make the pesto, smash the basil leaves with the garlic with a little sea salt. Add the cheese and combine together. Then drizzle in the olive oil, stirring as you go. Season to your taste.

When you’re ready to eat, ladle the soup into bowls. Leave to cool down for a few minutes and then add a generous spoonful of the pesto and garnish with the cheese (if using).

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