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Provençale Vegetable Soup with Almond Basil Pesto
Anywhere in the world, when farmers bring fresh vegetables to cooks, simple dishes like this soup are the result. This one is iconic because its flavours are particularly memorable. Imagine insanely delicious, intensely fresh vegetable broth swirled with big, bright basil pesto. You can taste how healthy it is!
SERVES 6 TO 8
For the Pesto
At least 50 big fresh basil leaves, from a big bunch or two
1 cup (250 mL) of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup (250 mL) of unsalted roasted almonds
1/4 cup (60 mL) of extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (60 mL) of water
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) of salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
For the Soup
2 tablespoons (30 mL) of extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek (white and light green part only), halved, thinly sliced and rinsed well
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 zucchini, diced
8 ounces (225 g) of green beans, trimmed to 1-inch
(2.5 cm) lengths
1 pint (500 mL) of cherry tomatoes
2 cups (500 mL) of orecchiette or orzo
A 28-ounce (796 mL) can of diced tomatoes
A 19-ounce (540 mL) can of navy beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups (1 L) of low-sodium vegetable stock or water
The leaves and tender stems of 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons (10 mL) of salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
Start with the pesto.
Place the basil, Parmesan, almonds, olive oil, water, garlic, salt and pepper in your food processor. Purée into a smooth, bright paste, pausing once or twice to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Transfer to a jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or so.
To make the soup, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until their colours brighten and they smell delicious, 5 minutes or so. Stir in the zucchini, green beans, cherry tomatoes, pasta, diced tomatoes, navy beans, vegetable stock, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a furious boil, then reduce the heat to a slow, steady simmer. Cook until the pasta is al dente, tender but slightly chewy, about 15 minutes. Serve the soup with several heaping spoonfuls of pesto in every bowl. Use it all up—it makes the soup sing!
Excerpted from “Real Food, Real Good” by Michael Smith. Copyright © 2016 Michael Smith. Published by Penguin Canada.