Smoky Minestrone with Tortellini and Parsley or Basil Pesto

May 20, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

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


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



  • 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

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
In This Recipe



  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. 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.

More Great Recipes:
Pasta|Soup|Italian|Carrot|Celery|Leek|Parsley|Pesto|Chickpea|Bacon|Basil|Serves a Crowd

Reviews (227) Questions (6)

227 Reviews

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. <br />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. <br />I am freezing the left overs except for one container. Having it again for tomorrow's dinner. Yummmm.
June October 5, 2017
Good stuff. Did not use bacon or leeks. (Wondering if two slices of bacon would make an eight-serving pot of soup 'smoky'? I didn't have bacon...or leeks...anyway. I did use drippings from Maple Chipotle Pork Roast.) Increased potato and omitted pasta. Subbed spinach for kale. Added mushrooms. Needed to use up some veggies and this recipe was a great inspiration! Thanks!
Sauertea February 19, 2017
Killer, just absolutely killer! Will definitely make again !
Suzie W. February 13, 2017
I will definitely make this soup again. Instead of using bacon, used smoked paprika for a smoke taste.
Carolina H. February 6, 2017
I´ve made this soup a couple of times and I love it! The flavours are amazing and the pesto is the perfect final touch. However, it seems to me that the water in the recipe should be at least the double.
Jade B. October 24, 2017
Agreed on the liquid amount!
Abbi C. November 7, 2016
Made this delicious soup on the weekend and it was my BEST soup attempt yet! Delicious, hearty and the bacon really shines to create a delicious smokiness but doesn't taste too meaty/heavy. The tortellini, cheese and pesto are a perfect addition to this delicious dish! lots of prep, but quite easy for such an impressive dish. Yum!
sara March 28, 2016
Does anyone know the calorie count to serving amount?
jlm086 January 5, 2017
I imported into MyFitnessPal, 312 per serving (out of 8)
Liz G. February 18, 2016
I made this lovely soup for 2 and froze multiple individual servings for later. I was sad to see the last one disappear tonight!! P.S. Starting with the best bacon is key- the flavor really carries the dish, while I feel that the veggies you have available could come in handy for this one... Don't stress if you don't have every green on the list!
Nancy February 3, 2016
This is absolutely a favorite here, I've made it twice now and both times it was awesome! I find it very flavorful even before the pesto which takes it over the top, so not sure what's happening with some reviewers. I do cook the bacon separately the only change. The pesto is just amazing with the soup, made once with basil and once with parsley both are great ( use your mini prep here it's just nuts to chop the pesto!). San Marzano tomatoes are not to be substituted! The amount of vegetables is up to your taste not to be stressed over. LOve this recipe! Thank you.
Gemoftheocean November 8, 2015
Loved this. I don't eat pork, so I used a bit of smoked paprika and about a teaspoon of fish sauce to replace the bacon, absolutely delicious!!
Courtney C. August 12, 2015
This was delicious. I'm a vegetarian, so I substituted some shallots fried with a touch of liquid smoke for the bacon, but otherwise followed the recipe. The add-ins at the end are a MUST. Never eat your soup naked.
BavarianCook July 16, 2015
Fantastico! I also had to make some adjustments based on available ingredients and used bacon grease to sauté the veggies in, fava beans instead of chickpeas and added some leftover small meatballs. Delizioso!!!
jenkaa55 June 23, 2015
I LOVE this recipe! Everyone I have made it for loves it! It is so hearty and satisfying that meat-lovers love it! My very favorite soup recipe!