The original recipe, submitted by WinnieAb, called for bacon to create the smoky flavor. I eliminated the bacon and added a teaspoon of smoked paprika to similar smoky (though not bacon-y) effect. I also used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. What is lovely about this soup is that it is mostly vegetables . . .
and more vegetables . . .
A few notes: Don't skip the parsley pesto! It adds a nice jolt of flavor to the soup. While I like the idea of hand-chopping pesto in theory, I like the ease of my mini-chopper more. I started with the parsley, then added the garlic, oil, pine nuts and finally cheese. It took just a few minutes and tasted delicious.
This is a generous recipe and makes a good 6-8 bowls. If you think you're not going to eat it all and would like to freeze some of it, then cook the tortellini separately and add as needed. Once the tortellini are in the soup, they continue to suck up broth, so your leftovers will be more stew-like than soup-like. They are still delicious--just perhaps not as photogenic.
I've now made this soup twice since I discovered the recipe just a month or so ago. And all of those comments about how good it is were totally spot on. I'm always hesitant to name something "the best soup ever," but even without that superlative, this is really delicious soup and absolutely worth having in your dinner rotation, whether it's a Meatless Monday or not.
Smoky Minestrone with Cheese Tortellini and Parsley Pesto
Adapted from WinnieAb's recipe on Food 52
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 leek, trimmed and sliced thinly
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1 zucchini, chopped
- 1 potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 quart of vegetable stock, homemade or not
- 1 15 oz. can of cooked chickpeas, preferably organic
- 1 28 oz. can of peeled San Marzano tomatoes, with juice
- salt, to taste
- 1 cup kale or Swiss chard, chopped fine
- 1 9-ounce package of high quality, all-natural cheese tortellini
- Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish-- optional but recommended
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Ask a question about this step.
- Add the chopped onion, garlic and leek. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until softened. Add the smoked paprika and cook another few minutes. Ask a question about this step.
- Add the chopped carrot, celery, zucchini, potato and stir around for a minute or two. Ask a question about this step.
- Add the stock, the chickpeas, and then the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you go. (You can also puree them, depending on your feelings about tomato pieces in your soup.) Add a few generous pinches of salt (be judicious if your stock is salted already). Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender. Ask a question about this step.
- Add the kale or chard and the tortellini, and continue to cook over a simmer until both are tender and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve garnished with a spoonful of the pesto, a few drops of aged balsamic (if desired), and a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. Ask a question about this step.
Parsley or Basil Pesto:
- 1 cup loosely packed basil or parsley
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive
- Chop, chop, and chop the basil or parsley some more by hand until it's very fine...when you do this, you'll reduce it down to about 1/4 cup. You can also do this step in a mini chopper. Ask a question about this step.
- As you chop the parsley/basil, start to incorporate the other ingredients and chop them fine, too, until you have a lovely, finely chopped pesto. Ask a question about this step.
- Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the olive oil. Use as a garnish for the minestrone.
- Note: I did this whole thing in the mini-chopper, and it came out nicely. So, whatever is easier for you.