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You won’t be able to resist this Genoese vegetable soup, which is full of fresh vegetables, protein, and a strong scent of basil. Here, pesto sauce tops this delicious combination of vegetables as it garnishes the dish with a touch of class. Once you taste it, you will fall in love with it.
A strictly vegetarian dish
It is one of the most traditional courses in Liguria, which stretches along the Ligurian Sea. It’s a beautiful area full of gardens where plenty of vegetables grow. This vegetarian dish that enshrines the Mediterranean tradition has plenty of fresh vegetables and vegetable protein along with the richness of a little Parmigiano, or Parmesan, cheese, and a hint of basil.
Although you have to prepare it carefully, it only takes a little time. First, make your shopping list and go to the supermarket or to your local outdoor market. Forget any snacks or treats and load your shopping cart with vegetables. Not only will it be good for you, but it will also be tasty.
What if you can’t get fresh vegetables?
Use frozen ones instead. They don’t need any washing and will save you time if you are in a hurry. Frozen organic veggies are as healthy as fresh ones. You can’t find all the vegetables in the recipe? Too many vegetables? No problem. Use only those you like; your soup will turn out well no matter what you use. Don’t forget the pesto as it will make a big difference.
Choose the right pasta
Short tubular pasta fits this recipe best: Use ditalini or macaroni, or any small tubular pasta that you have in your pantry. In a pinch, you can even break long spaghetti into pieces. You can also mix different pasta shapes; just make sure they have similar cooking times. Don’t use egg pasta because it doesn’t hold its shape, and it gets mushy.
Carefully prepare all the ingredients
First, you have to prepare all the vegetables to make this scrumptious soup. It takes time, it might be boring, but with a little music, cooking this soup is a great way to de-stress.
- Beans: Soak the dried beans overnight, rinse well, and boil them for about 1 hour. If you use canned ones, drain and rinse them in cold running water.
- String beans: Boil either fresh or frozen string beans directly in the pot with all the other vegetables.
- Spinach, chard, or escarole: Boil them directly in the pot with all the other vegetables if you use frozen ones. In case of fresh ones, clean them carefully before adding them to the pot.
- Pulses (peas and lima beans): Boil frozen peas directly in the pot with all the other vegetables; do the same for lima beans unless using canned.
- Peel and dice the potatoes, the pumpkin, and the carrots.
- Wash, peel, and discard the seeds of the tomatoes and dice them.
- Peel and dice the onion, the celery, and the zucchini.
Keep in mind a very important thing
Dice the vegetables into uniformly small pieces. They cook more evenly, and you can mash them without any effort.
The cooking time: The longer you cook your soup, the tastier and more tempting it gets. If you have plenty of time, cook it up to 2-3 hours over a very low heat. You will enjoy this comfort food.
Genoese Vegetable Soup, a Traditional yet Bountiful Meal
- 1 cup of pasta (macaroni or any small tubular pasta) (100-120g)
- 2 potatoes, diced uniformly
- 1 cup of frozen peas (150g)
- 1 cup of fresh or frozen navy or lima beans (150g)
- 2/3 cup of dried beans (1/3 cup navy beans and 1/3 cup of lima beans)
- 1 slice of diced pumpkin or about two cups frozen
- 2/3 cup of string beans
- 2 diced tomatoes
- 2 diced carrots
- 2 peeled and diced zucchini
- Some cabbage leaves or spinach, chard, or escarole to your taste
- 1 stalk of diced celery
- Parsley to taste
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 medium onion
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 spoonful of pesto (without pine nuts)
- 1 piece of rind from a hunk of Parmigiano cheese and some grated to sprinkle on the soup
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Clean and dice all the vegetables as I explained above;
- Finely chop the onion, garlic, parsley, and celery;
- Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a big stockpot over high heat and brown the chopped vegetables;
- Add all the cleaned vegetables to 2 ½ liters of water and bring it to a boil;
- Cook it over high heat for a few minutes;
- Then reduce the heat to low; cover the pot and simmer;
- Stir the soup frequently to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the pot;
- Add a little water if necessary;
- Halfway through cooking, add the Parmigiano rind cut into small pieces, and a handful of coarse salt;
- Coarsely mash the potatoes and the beans with a spoon to gradually thicken the soup; you may also use a fork. Mash some but not all of the potatoes and beans against the side of the pot;
- When all the veggies are tender and the soup is thick and creamy, add the pasta;
- If it gets too thick, add some water;
- Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the package, remove from the heat, and add the pesto. Stir it with a wooden spoon until evenly combined;
- Pour your soup into single serving bowls, drizzle each with a little extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle each bowl with Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese to your taste. Top each with a few fresh basil leaves.
How can you store it?
Genoese vegetable soup keeps fresh for up to 2 days in the fridge. You may freeze it as for about a couple of months.
How to make pesto
Make it while your soup is cooking. For the pesto you need:
- ½ cup (50 g) of fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup (100g) of extra virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup (67g) of grated Parmigiano cheese
- ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp (30g) of grated Pecorino cheese
- A few grains of coarse salt
Remove the basil leaves from the stem and clean them with a hand towel. Don’t wash or fold the basil because it turns black easily which makes the pesto taste unpleasant. Peel the garlic and crush it in a mortar or garlic press with a few grains of coarse salt. Then add the basil, and gently crush it until a dark green liquid is released. Add the cheese and the oil alternately. Continue to mash it until there’s a smooth creamy bright green sauce. This recipe doesn’t include pine nuts because the original one doesn’t require them; however, they are a nice addition if you have them. In a pinch, you can always buy pre-made pesto in the store; however, it won’t be nearly as good as the fresh.
What to do when you don’t have a mortar
Believe me; a few useful tricks will help you to make a good pesto with an immersion blender or small food processor, but never tell people from Genoa as they may get angry. First, put the basil into the bowl along with a few grains of salt and the peeled garlic. Add the ½ cup (100g) of olive oil and pulse intermittently with your immersion blender with an upwards and downwards motion to prevent the basil from overheating until you have an even paste. Add the cheeses and pulse until creamy and smooth. Your pesto is now ready. If using a small food processor, follow the same guidelines; pulse the ingredients only until it’s all mixed.
How can you store pesto?
It keeps fresh up to 1 week to 10 days in the fridge. Place the pesto into a perfectly sterilized air-tight jar and cover it with olive oil. You may also freeze it in single-serving containers for a few months. Some people put their pesto in an ice cube tray and freeze it. Then after it’s frozen, they pop out the cubes into a separate bag or container. This way, each time they need pesto, they have a small amount ready to use.