Smoky Minestrone with Tortellini and Parsley or Basil Pesto

By • May 20, 2010 • 184 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
A&M

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.

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

Comments (184) Questions (5)

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about 1 month 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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about 1 month 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!

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about 1 month ago Tutti

Delicious!

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about 1 month ago Fiona Rattray

I'm going to have to try this again as it didn't quite come together in the way I hoped it would. I did omit the potato and I think a better quality tortellini, as advised in the recipe, would have made a difference.

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3 months ago joannmm

Very good soup. I used very small pillows of cheese stuffed pasta and liked that, purchased basil pesto, and used spinach roughly cut in place of kale. It will definitely be a go-to recipe for me.

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3 months ago ihaventpoisonedyouyet

I followed this recipe exactly as written other than swapping canellini beans for the garbanzo beans. God knows where the worm turned but this was a disaster. As one person said, it was a matter of adding flavors once it was served in a bowl to improve the taste, but I found the texture off putting - too thick, too gelatinous. Others loved it so I don't know where it derailed, but quelle disastre!

Winnie100

3 months ago WinnieAb

Sorry for your experience, but I don't know what to tell you! Certainly not my experience, or the experience of others with the soup...

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3 months ago ihaventpoisonedyouyet

I know! And it looks so good! I'll have to try this again. Once more unto the breach!

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4 months ago thecumincondition

This is the most wonderful hearty soup I think I've ever made. Followed the recipe almost exactly (cooked the bacon separately, used some pre-bought pesto) and let it sit for a bit in my Dutch oven while I went to class. Thank you!

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4 months ago AlainaMK

I made this last night to feed us for the next few days (holed up in Chicago with frigid temps) and it is absolutely delicious - by far the best minestrone I've ever tasted. The pesto is such a unique and flavorful addition! I made a number of slight edits, which I think are worth sharing - especially if you're looking to lighten this up a bit:
-skipped the potato; this has more than enough hearty veggies without
-skipped the tortellini; forgot to purchase so never added - the soup does not need the pasta, esp if you want to cut those carbs/extra calories
-added a few parm-reggiano rinds during the simmering process; added really delicious, additional smokiness
-cooked the bacon fully on its own and added to soup near final stages; I first followed the original direction to add in the beginning, but found that the bacon never fully cooked and was too fatty/raw

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4 months ago phelonious

i sometimes replace the potato & tortellini with diced shitake mushrooms. bacon tip sounds good.

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4 months ago tastysweet

Any special type of potato? And what size potato? Meaning weight. Thanks. Will making this. Thanks for sharing.

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4 months ago phelonious

i use a white kennebec or yukon gold but any will do. since they are diced check often, they cook fast.

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4 months ago tastysweet

About weight, what size as they come in many different weights and sizes. I am into weight and use my food scale a lot. Thanks.

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4 months ago Assonta Wagner

Cannot wait to make this...

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4 months ago Margaret

This soup was fantastic! I skipped the bacon and ate it all week long. Highly recommend, a perfect and hearty winter soup.

Stringio

4 months ago steveB

Looks yummy!

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4 months ago Pete O

Super easy to prepare and oh sooo tasty! It was just what was needed on this cold night!
I omit the pine nuts and chick peas due to allergies.

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4 months ago Assonta Wagner

Have you tried roasted pumpkin seeds in your pesto? I have allergies, too and it is divine!

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4 months ago Chana Orit

I don't eat pork and my husband is vegetarian. I've learned that smoked paprika (in the spice section) adds that taste without adding meat. Just start small as you add it.

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4 months ago Margaret

Wonderful, thank you! I'll be making this tonight!

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4 months ago Alexandra K

Great tip, thank you :)

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4 months ago Margaret

I don't eat meat- will it alter the integrity of the soup too much if I omit the bacon? Can you suggest a substitution?

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6 months ago Patricia Landers Gee

This is a terrific soup. The combination of vegetables is great. Instead of the bacon I added 1lb of sweet Italian sausage (bulk)that I cooked in a separate pan until crumbly, then added to the soup. It added a bit of spicy flavor that was great with all of the veggies. I will add more kale next time as it adds a nice visual interest to the dish. Instead of the tortellini (since my market didn't have any good ones) I used elbow macaroni as a nod to old fashioned minestrone. Cook the pasta separately and add at serving time. I do this with my chicken soup all the time so I can freeze the leftovers in smaller portions. If you use canned chickpeas make sure to rinse them thoroughly to get rid of the slimy liquid.

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8 months ago Denisious

Lyric,
I would freeze portions without the tortelini and just boil as many tortelini in as many bowls of soup as I would immediately consume, this should help :)

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10 months ago Richard

Lyric,

I only made it once. Tasted great first of all. I did freeze a few portions, but when I ate them a while later, it wasn´t really soup anymore. Most of the liquid was gone. It was still tasty, but more like a pasta with a bit of sauce and loads of veggies :)

Then again, this was just my experience. I might not have used enough stock or something.

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10 months ago Lyric

This looks incredible! Can anyone tell me if they have ever made this & frozen it? I would love to make this and freeze it for my daughter to take to college.

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10 months ago phelonious

don't see why not but if possible add the tortellini at school. and make sure you hide it from other family members.

Stringio

10 months ago Lyric Glossop Wright

Great idea on the pasta...and hiding it!!

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10 months ago phelonious

about the 5th time i made it in the past year, better than ever. will have leftover for lunch today.