Dinner Tonight: Smoky Minestrone with Tortellini and Basil or Parsley Pesto

December 15, 2015

It's the most wonderful time of the year—for rich foods and lots of sweets, that is. Sometimes it feels like December is one long food coma, punctuated by a few sugar highs. Sometimes, it makes you crave vegetables. You start to fantasize about giant tomatoes, and leafy greens, and pants without elastic waistbands. But it's also winter, and unless you're in New York, a city that hasn't yet gotten the winter weather memo this year (it was in the high 60s this weekend!), it's chilly, the days are dark, and you just want to give in to those delicious holiday foods.

Photo by James Ransom

Enter this smoky minestrone with tortellini and basil or parsley pesto. It's got everything you could want in a hearty soup without being too much. There's bacon for smokiness, kale for lots of green, and a recipe for fresh chopped pesto. In goes a big can of tomatoes and a can of chickpeas, which frees up pantry space for more cookie tins holiday leftovers. Topped off with tortellini and a sprinkle of Parmesan, it's a soup that's as close to eating a blanket as we'd want to get.

Grocery List

Organized by area of the market

  • 2 slices preservative-free bacon
  • 1 leek
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 potato
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 9-ounce package all-natural cheese tortellini
  • 1 cup fresh basil or parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts

We're assuming you already have olive oil, Parmesan cheese, a large onion, a handful of garlic cloves, a can of chickpeas, and 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, but if not, add those to your list too!

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With an hour to dinner, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large pot and add the chopped bacon, stirring until they begin to brown. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil and add the chopped onion, garlic and leek. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. After it's softened, add the chopped carrots, zucchini, celery, and potato. Stir for another minute or two, and then add in the stock, chickpeas, and tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you go. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.

Take a whiff of the delicious aromas now swirling around your kitchen, and set to work whipping up the pesto. First, toast the pine nuts. Then, chop the fresh basil or parsley—then, chop it some more. You want it to be very fine. Add in the pine nuts and garlic and chop them too.

Once the soup has simmered for 30 to 40 minutes, add the chopped kale and the tortellini. Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the tortellini is done, but not soggy, and serve immediately. Garnish with a spoonful of the pesto, a sprinkle of Parmesan, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar, if you have some handy, and buon appetito! Now, about that cookie jar...

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Veratrine Flipflop
    Veratrine Flipflop
  • HWitte
  • Taylor Rondestvedt
    Taylor Rondestvedt
Taylor Rondestvedt

Written by: Taylor Rondestvedt

Is never without a loaf of rye bread and currently stocks 5 different butters in her kitchen.


Veratrine F. December 18, 2015
It says "add 2 more tablespoons of oil and add the chopped onion, garlic and leek." About how much garlic?
HWitte December 15, 2015
How many do you think this serves? I want to make it for 6 adults.
Taylor R. December 15, 2015
I'd base it on the package of tortellini that you choose- since those normally serve between 4-6, and this recipe calls for 4 cups of broth, then that might be exactly enough, if you're planning on serving other things with it, or you could double the recipe, and you'll have plenty to serve (plus leftovers!)