Hipstamatic Wave Hill and My World's Famous Pesto Minestrone

This past week I took Otis up to see my parents, his grandparents. Since they live in Riverdale that meant I had to make a little pilgrimage to my favorite NYC destination -- Wave Hill(featured in this previous post). It was windy and a bit chilly, but the leaves were still magnificent-- tons of golden and red hues. Though some of the trees were already bare, there were enough that still had turning leaves. And the views across the Hudson River were breathtaking. I picked up an absolutely delicious salad at the cafe-- a spinach, pumpkin and blue cheese salad-- but I wished that I had packed up some of my pesto minestrone soup and made a picnic with some French bread. But alas, my soup was all sealed up in a Ball jar and sitting in Brooklyn...
This pesto minestrone is my "go-to" winter soup.  If I hear that a Nor-easter is heading my way and expected to dump many inches of snow, I get this going on the burner.  It's perfect sit-on-the-couch-wrapped-in-a-great-big-blanket (snuggie!) soup.  Okay, I know there are still 4 weeks till it's officially winter and it's another month-and-a-half before the big storms hit, but when the temperatures go below the freezing point it's time to make this amazingly flavorful, hearty soup.   
This adaptation is based on a recipe I found in "Vegetarian Cooking" -- a tome/bible I picked up about 12 years ago when I moved to New Orleans.  I've tweaked this recipe a smidge by adding my own pesto and adjusting a few proportions.  I think this is the gold standard of minestrones!  I like to use fresh pesto if I have it, but you can easily use store bought pesto.  I like to make this in the early evening so that the whole house smells incredible.  You can eat it immediately, but I like to let the finished product cool in a dutch oven and then put it in the fridge for one day before serving--  all the herbs, vegetables, legumes and broth meld together after 24 hours. Delish!  
If the soup becomes too thick, you can use some stock or water to thin it out a bit.  Then remember to season accordingly.  Enjoy this soup-- it will instantly become one of your classic "go to" mains.  I hope you like this minestrone as much as we do...
Carrots from our penultimate CSA pick-up. They got thrown right into the minestrone!
My World's Famous Pesto Minestrone 
(Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking by Linda Fraser)
Serves 6-8
Minestrone is a thick mixed vegetable soup that usually has short cut pasta or rice added to it.  This one includes a home-made pesto sauce.  
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced 
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into small uniform dice, about 1/4 of an inch
6 cups of vegetable sock (you can use water, but stock gives the soup more flavor)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme
3/4 - 1 cup of tubetini, small shells or elbow noodles
3/4 of a cup of frozen peas
2 zucchini, finely chopped
15 ounce can of white beans, such as Cannellini or Great Northern Beans (For this recipe I use BPA-free canned beans. You can also use dry beans-- soaked overnight and cooked.)
1/2 tablespoon of salt (more to taste)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons of pesto (I like to use fresh, but you can use store bought as well.) Recipe follows.
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Stir in the onions and leeks and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and garlic,and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes more.  
Pour in the stock and stir well. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper.  Add small pasta. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 10-12 minutes.
Stir in the peas, if fresh, and the zucchini. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the frozen peas, if using. Cover the pot and simmer for 1o minutes.
Stir in beans (without liquid if using canned) and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the pesto sauce. Simmer for another 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Enjoy!  
This minestrone tastes even better the next day so you can make it in advance. Garnish with fresh grated parmesan. 

Basic Pesto Sauce  (An amalgamation from a bunch of different sources)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts)
  • 2 cloves garlic-- more if you like it garlicky. 
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Clean basil in water and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner.
Place the walnuts, pignoli, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Caring for Pesto: Air is the enemy of pesto. Pack it with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.
Yield: 4 cups