Ecosalon Recipes: Fall Minestrone with Cannellini Beans and Pounded Parsley Pesto


It’s already blustery and rainy in Northern California so it’s time to break out the cold weather recipes. Here’s a healthy, easy, customizable vegetarian or vegan minestrone that allows you to use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Beans make it a stick-to-your-ribs and healthy winter meal.

The beans can cook unattended, leaving you free for other tasks. You can cook the beans ahead and refrigerate them in their cooking liquid for up to 4 days. The soup can be finished quickly and easily on the day you plan to serve it. You can also make extra beans. (Cook a whole pound!) and use them throughout the week in salads and other dishes. To assure the “freshest” dry beans buy them from a farmer at your farmers’ market or from the bulk bins in a busy grocery store.

Serves 4

For the Beans:
1 cup dried Cannellini Beans, soaked overnight or for several hours (time allowing)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
1 to 2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onion, garlic, and celery (if using). Sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Drain the beans of their soaking water and add them to the pot. Cover the beans with cold, filtered water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Lower the heat to a bare simmer, cover partially and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, from 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cooking time can vary wildly depending on the age of the beans.

Add salt to taste when the beans are nearly soft.

For the Soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 to 6 cups bean broth, vegetable broth, water or combination
1 bay leaf
2 to 3 cups diced or chopped vegetables (can include carrots, fennel, green beans, zucchini, greens like kale or spinach, potatoes, etc.)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Parsley pesto for serving (recipe below)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain the previously cooked beans, reserving the broth. Measure the bean broth and add water or vegetable broth to come up to 4 to 6 cups total (depending on how many cups of vegetables you are adding and how thick you like your soup). You can always start with 4 cups of liquid and add more if you like. Add the liquid to the pot with the cooked vegetables and then add the bay leaf and a little salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower to a steady simmer.

Add the cut up vegetables, starting with the firmest ones first like carrots, potatoes, and fennel. Cook these until nearly soft, then add green beans, zucchini or other medium-firm vegetables. When those are nearly soft add the greens and tomatoes, or other short-cooking vegetables, along with the reserved beans. Cook until all the vegetables are tender and the flavors are blended, adding more liquid if you want, for a total cooking time of around 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the pounded parsley pesto. You’ll need a mortar and pestle, or if you prefer, you may use a food processor.

1 garlic clove
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
Olive oil to taste

Put the garlic clove in the mortar and add a pinch of salt. Pound it to a smooth paste and add the parsley little by little, pounding it down until it is finely chopped. Add the olive oil to your desired consistency. Alternatively, grind the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and add the salt and parsley. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl with a spatula. Drizzle in the olive oil while running until you have a smooth paste.

Check the soup for seasoning and serve in warmed bowls topped with a drizzle of parsley pesto and freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if desired)

Recipe Copyright 2009 Vanessa Barrington

Buy local and organic ingredients whenever possible.

Image: foodistablog

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.