Minestrone with Cannellini Beans and Pesto, a hearty, healthy dish packed with nutrients and delicious textures and flavor. Here is an Italian favorite, one that I grew up with and to this day enjoy immensely!
Song of the day: “More Than This” by Roxy Music.
Minestrone with Cannellini Beans and Pesto, taking an Italian tradition to the next level of flavor with a homemade pesto and all those lovely organic veggies, fresh, vibrant and fragrant especially when combined and slow simmered to create a most delicious blend of taste and texture. This Minestrone is just what we need during the winter months, a dish with sustenance, warmth, and heart!
One thing that I realized when I went to Italy for the first time was the Italian’s passion for fresh locally grown ingredients, and how they enjoyed preparing and eating them. When I looked at the people of Italy most were in great shape and boy do they know how to live.
Growing up in Canada and being first generation Italian came with a few losses in culture as my parents were immigrants and wanting to fit in and become Canadian. But one thing that stuck was the good home cooking and a wonderful garden that my parents grew and during the crazy snowy winter months I would wake up on weekends and smell a delicious aroma of soup simmering on the stove. Aromas of celery, carrots, onions, greens, potatoes, and beans. Yes, Minestrone. I just loved the variety of texture and flavor that it offered and one plate was never enough, paired with some Italian pagnotta bread and that was a hearty substantial meal that would give me energy and warmth to go play outside in the bitter cold for hours, building forts, tunnels, or even skiing in our front yard with those old wood skis my uncle gave me. When I couldn’t feel my fingers or feet anymore, I would dash inside and one thing you have to know about Italians they never just make things for one meal, there was always leftovers. To a kid who was in the cold and a bit frostbitten, wrapping my hands around a bowl of warm minestrone and feeling as it warmed my mouth, throat, then the whole body, was sheer delight and heaven to my soul.
Well, I am a lot older now in body and not in mind most will tell you, but winter is not as enjoyable as it once was. The cold feels colder, shoveling snow went from a novelty to a burden, and getting frostbitten feels a hell of a lot more painful than I can remember. But one thing that remains in my heart is a good bowl of soup, and this Minestrone with Cannellini Beans and Pesto still has that sweet spot in my soul!
Look at all those colors, all that earthy goodness. I don’t know about you but I take great pleasure in preparing veggies for a delicious soup. There is something meditative about it. The sounds of chopping, peeling, cleaning, and washing. Plus all that love and good feeling that goes along with knowing you are making something that is so wonderful and healthy to share with others. This is the recipe for peace and tranquility I think.
Then comes the next phase, the cooking. First, sauteeing all the veggies in those spices and herb, and sealing it with an incredible broth, homemade of course, but a good quality organic will do! The aroma is so warming and comforting, and I find myself digressing a bit to those winter days when I was young. Hearing my mother and father in the kitchen preparing, Italian music playing on the radio. Talk of who was coming for lunch and how bountiful the garden was that year. As I stir this soup I see the carrots stalks moving in the breeze, those wisps of celery strong and vibrant. The tomatoes so red and ripe, plump for the picking, and the rows and rows of potatoes and onions, and my parents lovingly tending to their passionate affair. I was always amazed how my mother and father could grow almost anything, and when it came time for harvest watching as the fruits of their labor were plenty. There was some pillaging before harvest, us kids called it garden raiding, nothing like pulling pea pods from the vine, and shucking them right into your mouth so sweet and robust they were. These are fond memories and I am grateful for my parents’ heritage and what they passed on to me. A love for the land, the passion for naturally grown foods, and of course the passion to create wonderful dishes to share with others. This is the Italian way!
Back to the task at hand Minestrone with Cannellini Beans and Pesto!
I was inspired by an old cookbook I pulled from the shelf. “The Ultimate Italian Cookbook” by Carla Capalbo. I have done a few of the recipes from this book and have thoroughly enjoyed them. You have seen the Potato and Tomato Bake, this is the second recipe I am sharing, Minestrone, and I have a third one that you are going to absolutely love, a pork shoulder recipe with a few unexpected surprises, so stay tuned. I love cookbooks, real ones, with bindings, pictures and that feel of printed paper. The sound of the binding being stretched and the aroma of a book is still bar none an experience I am not willing to part with.
This minestrone demands your time a bit, the cutting of the veggies, the prep of the broth, then the stage by stage sauteeing of the veggies finally to be settled in a nice broth and then relaxation comes in as the minestrone simmers slowly only needing some stirring from time to time. I am not going to get into all the prep as we have a wonderful recipe and procedure below.
The Minestrone is done and I have my hand waving those vapors right into my nose and it smells heavenly. The scent of bay leaf, that rich broth, it is so good can’t wait to experience it. I scoop a good spoonful getting all the elements in. I taste the mirepoix, sweet carrots, peppery celery, and sweet sultry leeks and onions. The potatoes just fall apart in my mouth creating a nice starchy cloud, only to be soothed and dissipated by the flavorful soft veggie and broth. The Russian kale, our choice of greens, offers just the right amount of earthy goodness accompanied by the cannellini beans that come in to play with texture and poise to our tongue. I love the way the zucchini just melts and becomes this juicy morsel of goodness along with the playful peas, together so sweet balancing out nicely with the rich herbed broth, courtesy of the thyme and bay leaf. I love having tomatoes in the blend, there is that acidity and color they add that makes it all the more intriguing and the aroma they give off just confirms the richness of this minestrone. Then there is this subtle but oh so tasty backdrop of the pesto, the basil adding a nice freshness and aromatic to the mix and those pine nuts and garlic lending spice and nuttiness to an already winning team. This Minestrone with Cannellini Beans and Pesto is pure comfort. I have all this warmth in my body and those memories rich in my soul of a time long ago of our culture and their love of food. Be Italian!
Song of the day: “More Than This” by Roxy Music.
Minestrone with Cannellini Beans and Pesto, taking an Italian tradition to the next level of flavor with a homemade pesto and all those lovely organic veggies, fresh, vibrant and fragrant especially when combined and slow simmered to create a most delicious blend of taste and texture.
- 6 1/2 cups vegetable stock (homemade or organic store-bought)
- 3 Tbsp e.v.o. oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 leek, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1 stock celery, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 3/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
- 2 cups cooked cannellini beans
- 1/2 cup cooked greens (like kale, swiss chard, spinach)
- 3 Tbsp pesto sauce (homemade or organic store-bought)
- Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, heat the broth to simmering.
- In a large saucepan, heat the e.v.o. oil. Stir in the onion and leek, and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the onion softens.
- Add the carrots, celery, and garlic, and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, for another 5 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, the zucchini, and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
- Pour in the vegetable broth, and stir well. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly and cook for 10-12 minutes.
- Stir in the peas and the tomatoes. Cover the pan and boil for about 5-8 minutes.
- About 10 minutes before serving the soup, uncover and stir in the beans and the greens. Simmer for 10 minutes, then stir in the pesto sauce. Taste for seasoning, add more salt if needed.
- Simmer for 5 more minutes then remove from the heat.
- Allow the soup to stand for a few minutes, then serve with grated Parmigiano (optional).
Short pasta, orzo, or rice may also be added.
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