Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Smoky Minestrone with Cheesy Tortellini and Parsley Pesto

I am coming to learn that Minestrone is the Italian version of stone soup or the Mexican chicken caldo. It works great as a clean out the vegetable crisper soup, which could be why I have so many different versions of minestrone on my blog. This one is great for using zucchini, potatoes, and leafy greens.

There are several things I love about this soup. Thing 1 is the tortellini. In my humble opinion, one can never go wrong with cheese tortellini. Ever. Thing 2 is the parsley pesto. Although we are starting basil season her in CenTex, I used store bought parsley that was languishing in my crisper drawer. I like the slight bite of parsley better and had no desire to use the basil that was also languishing in my crisper drawer.

We all love this soup. The kids even ate the zucchini in this without a complaint. Being swim season and all these days, M ate three servings. I was pleased to be able to pull a leek from my little raised garden to use in this soup. The vegetable amounts are estimates--since I had small carrots and potatoes, I used 6 small carrots and 4 small potatoes.

This serves at least 6 and possibly 8. It is equally good on a warm, muggy early summer (yes, the end of May is early summer here) afternoon as it is on a cold winter's evening.

Smoky Minestrone with Cheesy Tortellini
adapted from WinnieAb on Food52

3 T olive oil
2 oz bacon or pancetta, chopped into small pieces (both chop easier if partially frozen)
1 lg onion, peeled and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 medium-large potato, peeled and chopped
4 c chicken stock
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes
1 c kale, chard, or collards, roughly chopped
1 (9-oz) pkg cheese tortellini

1 c packed parsley leaves
2 T pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T Parmesan cheese, grated
1 T olive oil

Heat 1 T of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until they have started to brown. Add 2 more T of oil, if the pot looks dry, along with the onion, leek, and garlic. Continue to cook over medium heat until softened. Add the celery, carrot, zucchini, and potato. Stir for a minute or two. Add the stock, chickpeas, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or so, or until the potatoes are tender (that will depend on how small you cut the potatoes).

If you are making this soup ahead of time, stop here. Finish right before you are ready to eat.

While the soup simmers, make the pesto. I find it easiest to do this by hand, based on the small recipe. Chop the parsley until it is very, very fine. Chop the toasted pine nuts and garlic. Add to the parsley, along with the Parmesan. Stir in the olive oil. Set aside.

Add the kale and tortellini to the soup(if you are using chard, add that a minute or two after the tortellini), and cook 7 minutes, or until cooked through. Taste and add more salt. Serve and garnish individual bowls with a nice spoonful of parsley pesto, as desired.

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