Summer minestrone with carrot-top pesto

by Jenny Chandler

A light and seasonal version of the hearty Italian soup

We have minestrone Mondays in our house—the perfect moment to empty the vegetable basket and start the rest of the week afresh. A soup can feel summery and light if you stick with seasonal ingredients and use fresh tomatoes rather than the passata that I’d use in the wintertime.


For the base:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced (shallots would be perfect too)
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3½ pints of vegetable stock, or chicken stock for a richer result
2 potatoes, cut into 2cm dice (optional)
100g pasta (tiny shapes such as ditalini or stelle), quinoa or buckwheat if gluten free
250g home cooked beans or 1 can of drained (borlotti, cannellini, haricot, or whatever takes your fancy)
4 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and diced

The variables (at least three of any of the following veg):
A handful of green beans, sliced into 2cm pieces
A handful of broad beans, preferably double podded
A handful of fresh or frozen peas
1 small bunch of asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 2cm pieces
1 courgette, finely diced

For the carrot top pesto:
Leafy tops from a bunch of carrots
A handful of basil, parsley, oregano or chervil
50g pine nuts, almonds or hazel nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
50g parmesan or another hard cheese, cut into rough chunks
100ml oil (rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil)
A squeeze of lemon juice


Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion, carrots and celery for about 10 mins, until soft. Add the stock and bring up to a simmer. Throw in the potatoes and pasta and simmer until the potato is beginning to soften.

Now add the cooked beans and your choice of green vegetables and cook for about 5 mins—you want the fresh veg to remain fresh and al dente. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the tomatoes.

To make the pesto, remove the carrot leaves from the tougher stalks and chop roughly. Blitz everything in a food processor until you have a chunky purée. Store in a jar covered with olive oil for up to 4 days.

Serve the soup in bowls, with 1 large tsp carrot top pesto or a good sprinkling of herbs and cheese on each.

WASTE NOT Break up odd bits of spaghetti (wrap in a tea towel and snap away) instead of buying tiny pasta or leave out the pasta and place a piece of toasted, old rustic bread in the bottom of each bowl instead.

When you finish a piece of parmesan cheese, keep the rind in the fridge. Next time you are making minestrone (or risotto) add it, in one piece, with the stock. Don’t forget to hoik out the soft and rubbery rind before serving, it will have done its work enriching and flavouring the dish.

Recipe: Jenny Chandler