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Summer Minestrone with Mint Pesto

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Summer minestrone with Mint Pesto

Having grown up in upstate New York, where there are long winters and a short growing season, I still am amazed at the year-round bounty of California farmers. So although this soup has summer in its title, I can now make it almost all year long in Sonoma, while folks in the East have to wait for warmer weather.

While a winter minestrone is a heavy soup with root vegetables and pasta, this is a “minestrina,” a thin soup with a light broth and barely cooked vegetables that say local and sustainable in a bowl. The pesto is not absolutely necessary, but it does add a whole new dimension to the soup.

3 large (about 1 pound) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded and cut into pieces

10 cups vegetable stock or canned nonfat, low-sodium vegetable broth

1½ cups fresh cranberry beans

1 cup finely diced carrots

½ cup finely diced Vidalia or other sweet onion

Salt and pepper

» cup finely diced yellow squash

» cup finely diced zucchini

» cup fresh English peas

» cup fresh corn kernels

1 tsp. lemon juice

Mint pesto, recipe follows (optional)

Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process to a smooth puree.

Combine the tomato puree with the vegetable broth in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the beans, carrots and onion. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes or just until the beans begin to soften. Stir in the yellow squash, zucchini, peas and corn and again bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 12 additional minutes or until the vegetables have softened slightly but remain a bit crisp. Add the lemon juice, taste and, if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and ladle into large shallow soup bowls. If using, spoon a dollop of pesto into the center and serve.

Mint pesto

Makes about 1½ cups

2 cups loosely packed mint leaves

3 cloves garlic, chopped

½ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ to » cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Combine the mint with the garlic, nuts and cheese in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process just until the mixture is thick and paste-like. With the motor running, slowly add enough of the oil to make a textured, but not chunky, thick sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Use immediately or store, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Note: If you want to make a traditional Italian basil-based pesto, replace the mint with fresh basil leaves and the hazelnuts with toasted pine nuts.

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