Serves a Crowd

Smoky Minestrone With Tortellini & Pesto

May 20, 2010
32 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

I love a good 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. - WinnieAb —WinnieAb

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  • Kosher 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
  • 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 extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Soup
  2. 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.
  3. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil along with the chopped onion, garlic and leek. Continue to cook, strirring occasionally, over medium heat until softened.
  4. Add the chopped carrot, celery, zucchini, potato and stir around for a minute or two.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  1. Parsley or Basil Pesto
  2. 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.
  3. As you chop the basil, start to incorporate the other ingredients and chop them fine, too, until you have a lovely, finely chopped pesto.
  4. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the olive oil. Use as a garnish for the minestrone.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Dariusz
  • Laura E
    Laura E
  • Smaug
  • Natalie Thompson
    Natalie Thompson
  • Peggy Griswold
    Peggy Griswold
I grew up in a restaurant family (my parents owned the now closed Quilted Giraffe in NYC) and I've always loved to cook. My interest in the connection between food and health led me to pursue a graduate degree in naturopathic medicine. I don't practice medicine anymore; I have a blog called Healthy Green Kitchen that I started in May of 2009 and I wrote a book called One Simple Change that will be published in January, 2014. I live in upstate New York with my family and many pets.

239 Reviews

Dariusz November 10, 2023
Fantastic dish, full of delicious flavours! Second-day leftovers are great, too, maybe even better. This recipe goes to my favourites.
Goose January 26, 2023
You make me adore your recipes, I love you so much baby. 1 star you swine!
Laura E. January 10, 2023
This recipe has great depth of flavor. I completely omitted the pesto and topped it with shaved Asiago cheese for serving. I love potatoes so I added a bit extra, and decreased the leek by half because I thought it might be too onion-y for my family’s typical taste. Just delicious and I’m already looking forward to the leftovers today. My eight year old even ate a ton, mostly focused on the tortellini and broth :)
Smaug January 2, 2023
Personally, I think I'd skip the smoke if I was going to call it minestrone as Italian cooking has generally sedulously avoided smoke flavor. However, vegetarians who want to try it could use a bit of liquid smoke- an unjustly maligned product. Good types, such as Wright's, are just smoke dissolved in water. There are some with weird ingredient lists that I avoid.
Randie R. October 6, 2022
Excellent recipe. Not a kale fan so I used escarole. And if you’re using bacon, I don’t find a need to add EVOO. Everyone had seconds.
simski100 January 6, 2022
Perfect! Instead od chickpeas I added dried beans (presoaked) and one chicken breast🌟
Natalie T. December 25, 2021
This soup is delicious. My go to minestrone recipe!
Dipndee September 21, 2021
I’ve been making this recipe for 11 years now and it’s never failed me. Every time I tweak it a bit, and every time it comes out delicious. My husband and two young kids love it, too.
KyleKerr June 8, 2021
Fantastic recipe and I appreciated all the other tips and variations listed in these comments. Adding in the parm rind near the end definitely added some depth to the flavours and adding some paprika built onto the smoky flavours. I went with bacon and a bit of pancetta as I love both. Definitely great as a main feature or as part of a coursed dinner but this soup can be a star all on its own. Kyle Kerr
Peggy G. April 15, 2020
As a yummy variation, add sautéed large nice quality shrimp at the end just before serving in each bowl.
Maserati October 21, 2019
I've made this decadent soup for many winter nights, I always substitute kale (I'm allergic, for Swiss chard and I always add more bacon (of course I still drain the bacon fat) I use bow tie pasta instead of tortellini and I also add a Parmesan rind while its boiling. This is my version and it's a keeper!
Pamela_in_Tokyo June 21, 2019
I made this exactly as printed in the recipe except I didn’t have any tortellini at all. So I didn’t use that. I didn’t mind it that it was so thick .... it’s more like a main dish soup. And the pesto and the balsamic vinegar are absolutely required condiments! They bring the soup alive. This is a real keeper and I really love it.
Linda December 18, 2018
This is absolutely delicious. We recently changed our diet to plant based for health reasons so I'm exploring a new way of cooking without meat. I did not use bacon but spiced it up with smoky paprika and also threw in a parm rind. It was extremely thick, so I doubled the amount of stock and it was still a hearty and not thin consistency. Can't wait to have a bowl of "planned overs" tonight.
keithcancook April 28, 2018
Fantastic!!,I needed to add extra stock and I used swiss chard instead of kale.I also put in a parma rind.
marti G. March 10, 2018
Loved it... super simple and super awesome !!!
Erin A. February 20, 2018
I made this last night and WOW! I did add a little extra stock because it was super thick. I had small shells on hand so I substituted them for the tortellini and my pine nuts were off so I had to use macadamia nuts in the pesto instead. It was incredibly flavorful and everyone enjoyed it very much. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Dee-lish!
ali February 16, 2018
Made this last night. Just delicious! Made the following changes: Used 6 cups of stock and added more water as I went - probably to equal 8 cups liquid total. Used Pomi finely diced tomatoes (26.46oz pkg), added some chopped basil in with the soup and used store bought pesto at the end. Rave reviews at my house!
Linda C. January 10, 2018
Looking forward to making this with smoked paprika, as mentioned previously, and a smoked garlic that I get at my growers' market
Jade B. October 24, 2017
Finished the last of the leftovers of this recipe. Definitely a hit...will make again! Perhaps next time though add more broth because all the goodies in the soup soaked it right up, and I'd like it a bit less stew texture.
tastysweet October 23, 2017
I just finished eating this. My husband loved it as did I. Followed it pretty much precisely, except I added fresh go round pepper. Needed a bit more salt. Added that in stages.
One question, The sauce was very thick and that was ok. But was wondering if that was because I used the San Marzano crushed tomatoes instead if whole.
I am freezing the left overs except for one container. Having it again for tomorrow's dinner. Yummmm.