Classic Italian Minestrone Soup with Pesto
Every family in Italy makes its own variation of minestrone, which means literally “big soup,” from the word “minestra.” One may insist on using spinach, while another may argue for leeks and swiss chard. One may put parmesan cheese on the served plate, another may prefer just a few drops of olive oil.The combination that follows adds some “pesto,” which has become a favorite sauce in all of Italy, from its original Genoese origin. The vegetables are to some extent interchangeable (use swiss chard instead of spinach, or extra onions and no leeks). The taste of slow-simmered vegetables and cannellini beans contrasts with the bright flavors of basil and garlic in the pesto. If you have a rind of Parmigiano Reggiano, this is a good place to use it, by cooking it together with the vegetables and then discarding it before serving the soup.
The following recipe serves 6 people and is adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop.
Heat the oil in a large soup kettle or stockpot. Add the leeks, carrots, onion and celery and sauté over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the stock or water, potato, zucchini, the chopped spinach and the tomatoes. Bring to boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for one hour. Stir in the beans and salt to taste. Simmer another ten minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the pesto. Adjust the seasoning. Serve with either grated cheese or olive oil!