Green Minestrone With Basil Pesto

April 28, 2023
11 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

This vibrant green minestrone soup is the perfect weeknight meal—it comes together in well under an hour with satisfying results. Much like a classic minestrone, this soup is packed with beans, pasta, and vegetables, making it a complete meal in itself. A base of well-browned leeks and garlic give this green version character and depth, while spring’s greenest vegetables take center stage: Asparagus, spinach, and peas shine here, but feel free to add whatever’s in season.

The secret to making this soup so delicious is a generous dollop of pesto. It not only lends aromatic flavor to the broth, but the oil in the pesto adds body and richness as well. You don’t have to use homemade pesto either—this a great time to utilize the store bought version. While ready-made varieties from the refrigerated section generally taste the best, jarred pesto works just fine in this application, and no one will be the wiser. My favorite store bought option comes from my local deli, but the Kirkland Signature Pesto from Costco is always good and a great value for money.

This soup is best served immediately after cooking as the pasta will get softer the longer it sits. Make sure to serve it topped with a pile of finely grated parmesan and a thick slice of bread for soaking up the delicious broth. —Zola Gregory

What You'll Need
  • 1 medium leek
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 2-inch piece of parmesan rind (optional)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chicken or vegetable bouillon paste (optional)
  • 2 cups short pasta (such as fusilli or farfalle)
  • 1 14-oz can cannellini or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced into ½-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces asparagus (about 1 small bunch), ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch long pieces
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen petite peas
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto, plus more for serving
  • Parmesan cheese, finely grated, for serving
  1. Trim the root and green ends off the leek and slice it in half lengthwise. Place each half with the flat side down and slice into thin half moons. Place the leek pieces in a colander and rinse well under cold tap water. Shake to remove excess water.
  2. Place a 5 to 6 quart pot or dutch oven over medium heat and drizzle in the olive oil. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, until they turn translucent and begin to brown; 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and a large pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes more, or until the leeks are lightly browned. Some browning will occur on the bottom of the pot—this will create a nice depth of flavor!
  3. Add the bouillon paste and parmesan rind, if using, and 6 cups of water. (Alternatively, broth or stock may be used in place of the bouillon paste and water.) Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat to medium high. Once boiling, add the pasta and beans. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes less than the recommended cooking time on the pasta package.
  5. When the pasta is still very al dente, add the asparagus and zucchini. Cover and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the peas, spinach, pesto, and lemon juice and give the soup a stir. Taste the broth and adjust the salt if necessary. Serve immediately topped with grated parmesan cheese and a small extra drizzle of pesto.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Taylor Stanton
    Taylor Stanton
  • Zola Gregory
    Zola Gregory
  • Lola
  • Kim

12 Reviews

Lola March 30, 2024
This soup is excellent! Just what I was looking for on a chilly early Spring day. Didn’t change a thing. Even had the “Better than bouillon” on hand and homemade pesto/ Served with a baguette. Leftovers were just as good even though pasta was softer/ will definitely put this in rotation.
Taylor S. July 28, 2023
Hearty, refreshing, and delicious!
Kim June 13, 2023
I made this with asparagus, peas, spinach, cauliflower, and thinly sliced onions. Very tasty and filling. Would make again!
rox L. May 24, 2023
Pro tip to share. I always wait to add pesto to soup I'm serving immediately, the pesto remains bright and adds such beauty to the presentation.
This is a delicious recipe. Thanks
Sylvia B. May 10, 2023
Perfect springtime recipe! I made this last night and it was delicious- flavours go well together and it’s easy enough to whip up on a weeknight. I love cooking with basil this time of year but often find myself making the same old pesto pasta on repeat. Well, not anymore! Will be making this many times over. Thanks, Zola!
mdominic May 6, 2023
If you can decipher this poorly directed recipe it makes a great soup.

First, what is bouillon paste? Better Than Bouillon? Who knows because they don't say. I used bullion cubes, but using stock would be a better idea. Also if using bouillon, use 7 cups of water or it will be way too salty.

Second. 10 oz. of baby spinach? Ridiculous. After putting in 6 oz. I realized that it was too much. 5 oz is more than enough.

Lastly, Lemon? In the last direction it tells you to add lemon. This is the first mention of lemon in the recipe. How much lemon and why isn't it in the ingredients? The juice of half a lemon worked for me.
Ellie May 10, 2023
I'm worried this recipe wasn't tested or edited. Thanks for saying it was great, so I won't be afraid to try it, and for filling in the gaps in the instructions.
Zola G. May 10, 2023
Hi Ellie!
I can assure you I very thoroughly tested this recipe. We did miss the lemon in the ingredient list-- apologies! Just add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste at the very end. It is a great, easy soup. I hope you try it!
mdominic May 10, 2023
What is bullion paste?
Zola G. May 10, 2023
Better Than Bouillon is an example of bouillon in paste form, but there are other brands as well. 2 bouillon cube would work just fine in this recipe, as will stock/broth, as will simply using water.
Ellie May 13, 2023
Thanks for the clarifications. Made it and I agree it is a great, easy soup. Also nutritious and a balanced meal. Thank you!
rox L. May 24, 2023
mdominic, The amount of spinach is subjective; add the amount you prefer. I always add extra because I love it.