Smoky Minestrone with Tortellini and Parsley or Basil Pesto

By • May 20, 2010 • 204 Comments

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Author Notes: I love a good minestrone...so much veggie goodness, but so hearty, too. This recipe starts with just a little bit of all-natural bacon, but if you'd rather leave it out, go ahead and proceed with the rest of the recipe. You won't get the smoky flavor, but you'll still get a great soup (you could also substitute pancetta for the bacon, but obviously you won't do that if you are a vegetarian!). I didn't add any salt to the soup because the bacon and my homemade chicken stock did the trick, but please add it to taste, if necessary. As for the pesto, I went the hand-chopped route here because it's a small batch, I didn't want to drag out the food processor, and I wanted to use a minimal amount of olive oil. I made the pesto with parsley, which I love, but feel free to use basil instead. You can also use your own favorite homemade or store-bought pesto instead of this one, if you prefer. - WinnieAbWinnieAb

Food52 Review: We love WinnieAb's proclivity for combining delicious, nutritious ingredients (like the many vegetables in this soup) with a touch of the indulgent (bacon, cheese tortellini). The smokiness of the bacon permeates the minestrone, imbuing the tomatoey broth with a depth of flavor it wouldn't have otherwise. The bright, rustic pesto (we used parsley, but basil would be great too) is a superb final addition, adding a garlicky, herbal kick. - A&M
The Editors

Serves 6-8

Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 slices preservative-free, all-natural bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and sliced thinly
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 15 oz. can of cooked chickpeas, preferably organic
  • 1 28 oz. can of peeled San Marzano tomatoes, with juice
  • Salt
  • 1 cup kale, chopped fine
  • 1 9-ounce package of high quality, all-natural cheese tortellini
  • Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling- optional
  • Grated parmesan cheese for garnish- optional
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook for a couple of minutes, until they start to brown.
  2. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil along with the chopped onion, garlic and leek. Continue to cook, strirring occasionally, over medium heat until softened.
  3. Add the chopped carrot, celery, zucchini, potato and stir around for a minute or two.
  4. Add the stock, the chickpeas, and then the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you go. 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.
  5. Add the kale 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 the aged balsamic, and a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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 oil
  1. 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.
  2. As you chop the basil, start to incorporate the other ingredients and chop them fine, too, until you have a lovely, finely chopped pesto.
  3. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the olive oil. Use as a garnish for the minestrone.
Jump to Comments (204)

Tags: adaptable to vegetarian, Healthy, hearty, kid-friendly, winter

Comments (204) Questions (5)

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about 8 hours ago macfadden

I substituted a few shakes of smoked paprika for the bacon to make it vegetarian and it was fantastic! Usually, I find that one minestrone is rather like another, but the pesto really made this one extraordinary. I will definitely make it again.

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10 days ago LinneaJC

This was amazing! We made a vegetarian version using tempeh bacon and a dash of liquid smoke. It turned out fabulous and will be on heavy rotation throughout the cold, dreary winters of MN.

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18 days ago Karin

Loved the soup! Used Canneilini beans instead of chick peas and fresh basil instead of kale. Served with fresh grated Reggiano Parmigiano and drizzled Balsamic vinegar. And of course hot Pugliese bread.

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about 1 month ago Chef Tracy D

I'm not a huge fan of minestrone soup but this one looked too good to pass up. And I was right! Absolutely delicious and the addition of the pesto is genius. So flavorful... it will definitely become a winter staple in my house.

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about 1 month ago Margie

I made this for the first time yesterday and loved it! (As did all of my guests!) I agree that the pesto is a wonderful and lively addition to the flavors. I used the suggested amount of tortellini and thought it was too much bulk in the soup...so next time will use less (or maybe try without). But will DEFINITELY make this again. LOVED it!! Thank you.

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about 1 month ago VVV03

Was about to make this dish this weekend and it was great. We used basil pesto, which for me made a big impact. My only issue was not with the recipe but with the frozen tortellini I used, which unfortunately were a bit on the tough and heavy side. I plan on making it again with a better, fresher tortellini. Really terrific flavors and very healthy.

Stringio

about 1 month ago Maryann McArdle

This is a fantastic recipe. I made it pretty much as written, except used cannelini beans instead of chickpeas. So hearty and absolutely delicious. It needed no extra salt. Between the chicken stock, the parmesan, and the pesto, it had plenty of taste already. Served it with toasted ciabatta rolls. Plus, lots of leftovers! This will be a new "go-to" meal for the winter.

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about 1 month ago Jennifer

Anyone try this with fake bacon or smoked paprika instead ??

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about 1 month ago Margaret

I always skip the bacon and it's just as delicious!

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about 1 month ago Jennifer

Thanks. I'll try it without it!

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2 months ago Dee Greeley

Outstanding even without bacon. The vinegar and parmesan cheese really topped it off nicely too. Great for a winter warm up.

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2 months ago Maria

This ground parsley is definitely doing its job. I mean, by the look of this, we are gonna make it just fine. - Flemings Ultimate Garage

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3 months ago Jes Anderson

oh yes, everything about this is amazing. i doubled the recipe and this fed my husband and me all week. I omitted the potato and the balsamic vinegar and the pesto, but other than I followed the recipe completely and I will be making this again!

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4 months ago Kym

I made this today, with a couple variations to use what I had in the fridge, and it's delicious! I had a bit of jarred basil pesto, a bit more of jarred tomato pesto, and I'd made parsley pesto this morning, and all three went in along with all the veg called for, and extras I had on hand. I didn't have tortellini, so I just cooked ditalini on the side. Thank you for a great soup!

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4 months ago angela

I LOVE this soup. I've made it three times now. The first time I omitted the bacon and it tasted just as good to me. I use pre-made pesto from a jar (trader joe's brand is delicious) and it adds great flavor. Serve with some toasted pine nuts on top! Super easy and delicious recipe- definitely recommend

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5 months ago Babette

Everyone needs to try this recipe, like Beyonce, it too is #Flawless. Perfect for fall and it's bursting with flavor. Also, don't be afraid to add a little more bacon, I mean, who wouldn't?
http://babetteandbuttons...

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6 months ago Stephanie

This was an amazing recipe! I over-indulged and added double the bacon which added another level of depth to the broth (and delicious smokiness!). Sprinkled a little bit of sea salt over it to taste and served it with the basil pesto; the perfect hearty comfort soup!

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6 months ago Kristen N.

I see why the recipe recommends parmesan, pesto and balsamic vinegar, because without it, the soup is rather bland. I omitted the potato, and added fresh oregano and crimini mushrooms to amp up the flavor, otherwise followed as per the directions. Not my favorite minestrone recipe, the broth needs more richness.

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6 months ago eva hayes

This was so delicious! The balsamic, pesto and Parmesan was a perfect topping I recommend doing the whole recipe! The only thing I changed was extra pasta and maybe next time I'd add some smokey spicey chorizo as an experiment.

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9 months ago Sherly Constant

I made this soup three times so far. It's really good.

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11 months ago sevenfaces

I had to go a little freestyle jazz with this recipe. I didn't have leeks, chickpeas, and neither canned nor fresh tomatoes, so I put in 2 large tablespoons of tomato paste at step 3 instead. The stock I had frozen had a whole chicken breast floating in it which I only noticed when it started to melt in the pot! That eventually broke up into shreds of chicken throughout the soup which I thought made it even heartier. Instead of making pesto I topped each bowl with chopped parsley and generous amounts of grated parmesan. It tasted wonderful, so even though I may not have made minestrone soup, I thank you for providing this recipe! :)

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12 months ago Ladytroupe Sweets

I'm new to Food52 and loved your interview and when I saw this recipe, I knew it would be a winner for my family (with 3 small children). Living in Ethiopia means I have to improvise often, so I used kidney beans, chorizo, and not very high quality cheese tortellini. But it turned out wonderfully thick and hearty and perfectly matched with some cheese and chive corn bread muffins. Thanks for the recipe. Such a fantastic idea to add the tortellini!