In need of a quick, easy and elegant luncheon for some visiting folks, my search led me to the herb patch. Pots of fragrant basil, clumps of purple-topped chives, and bunches of parsley were waiting, patiently, for a burst of culinary inspiration. Spring is the time to dust off some classic recipes and rethink how we eat.
Fresh herbs add a depth of freshness and flavor to our food, and the welcome, bright color of green. When combined with olive oil, they become a “pesto”, Italian for “pounded”. Although pesto is traditionally an uncooked sauce made with garlic, nuts and cheese, it can also be a simple preparation of herbs pureed with olive oil. It’s easy to make these herb purees in batches and store them in the glass jars in the refrigerator. When your cooking needs a boost, Presto Pesto!
The recipe for Spring Minestrone is loosely based on the classic Italian recipe for minestrone, a thick, vegetable soup that generally contains pasta and often peas or beans. If you add the veggies in phases, starting with the longest cooking first to the fastest last, the texture of each individual vegetable has the perfect amount of crunch.
This nutritious and delicious soup can be made with a wide-variety of seasonal vegetables. For a fun visual effect, I sliced the carrots in long slivers using a mandolin. A tiny pasta, like orzo, provides a more delicate balance to the spring veggies.
I served this soup in heated plates with the herb pesto and shaved Parmesan on top. Hot, fragrant garlic bread and raspberry applesauce completed our elegant spring repast.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 leek chopped
- 1/2 cup onion chopped
- ¾ cup chopped celery or celeriac
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 carrots peeled, and sliced into ribbons
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 1/2 cup tiny dried pasta
- 1 cup chopped fresh asparagus
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- Shaved Parmesan cheese for serving
- This nutritious soup is topped with a fresh herb pesto and accommodates a wide range of seasonal veggies.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 leek, chopped ½ cup onion chopped ¾ cup chopped celery or celeriac 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock 2 carrots, peeled, and sliced into ribbons 1-cup fresh or frozen peas ½ cup tiny dried pasta 1 cup chopped fresh asparagus ½ cup chopped fresh parsley ½ cup chopped fresh basil ½ cup chopped fresh chives 2 tablespoons olive oil Sea salt and fresh pepper Shaved Parmesan cheese (for serving) Heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the leek, onion, and chopped celery. Sauté the vegetables, stirring, until they just start to soften. Add the stock, bring to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are just tender. Add the pasta, carrots, and asparagus and cook until al dente. Stir in the peas, and season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. Meanwhile, prepare an herb pesto: puree the herbs with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with sea salt and fresh pepper. To serve: ladle the soup into heated plates, top with pesto and Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 servings.