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Italian Vegetable Soups
Minestra alla Genovese

(Serves 4)

Pesto sauce originated in Genoa and many times when you see a dish 'alla Genovese' it is because it contains pesto.  This recipe uses a pesto with tomato which is more common in Sicily.  The addition of the pesto is what makes this dish so flavorful.  Note that all ingredients do not go into the pot at one time but in a sequence.  By first sauteing the onions, you produce the essential underlying flavor which is later imparted to the other vegetables.  You also add the most tender vegetables last so that they don't become too soft.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped leeks
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
Salt and pepper
6 cups chicken broth
Pinch of saffron
1/2 cup cut green beans
1/2 cup diced zucchini
2-3 ounces linguine
Pesto (recipe follows)
Parmesan cheese for garnish   

Pesto:
2 garlic cloves
12 large basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil
                                                                                                                                                                                              
Directions:
                                                                                                                         
Heat the oil in a large stockpot.  Add the onions and saute over low heat for 5 minutes.  Add the leeks, potatoes, carrots, salt and pepper.  Saute another 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and saffron.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the green beans and zucchini.  Break the linguine into 1-2 inch pieces and add to the soup.  Cook for 15 more minutes.  Just before serving, stir half of the pesto into the hot soup.  Top individual serving with Parmesan and pass additional pesto.

To make the pesto:
Put the garlic, basil, and Parmesan in a food processor and puree.
Add the tomato paste and olive oil.  Puree until combined.
Vegetarian Tortellini Soup

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped spinach
1 (16 ounce.) can navy beans, drained
2  (14 ounce) cans vegetable broth
1 (15 ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained, and chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, cut into quarters
8 ounces cheese tortellini
Grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Directions:

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, pepper, seasoning, and garlic.  Sauté 5 minutes.  Add the spinach, beans, broth, tomatoes, and artichokes.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes.
Add the tortellini and simmer until the tortellini are tender, usually 8-10 minutes.
Serve in individual bowls.  Sprinkle each with Parmesan.
Minestrone

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, slightly drained
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (14 ounce) cans beef broth
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup elbow macaroni
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium heat.  Add garlic, onion, carrot, celery, and cabbage.  Sauté 8-10 minutes.  Add beans, tomatoes, broth, parsley, basil, and oregano.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook 1 hour.  Transfer about 1-1/2 cups of the soup to a food mill or blender and puree.  Return the puree to the soup and add pasta and red pepper. Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook an additional 15 minutes.  Add water if the soup gets too thick.  Serve.
 
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Italian Soup Recipes
Crunchy homemade croutons add richness and texture to salads, soups, and pasta.
Use a crusty, Italian (or similar) bread that is a day or 2 old.  You only need to use a few slices. Cut the slices into cubes; you can make them as large or small as you like.  Slice a garlic clove into 2 to 3 pieces.

Coat the bottom of a skillet with some olive oil and add the garlic slices.  Heat the skillet over medium-high heat.  When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the bread cubes. Stir them once to coat the cubes with the oil and then just allow them to cook. Turn them occasionally so that they brown evenly on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Add more oil if the skillet gets too dry. Remove and discard the garlic slices when they start to brown.

Transfer the croutons to a plate and sprinkle them lightly with grated Parmesan cheese.  You can serve them immediately or allow them to sit for up to 30 minutes. 

You can also make the croutons in the oven.  Cut the bread into cubes, toss with some olive oil, place on a baking sheet, and bake in a 400 degrees F oven until crisp, about 8 minutes.
MINESTRONE
There are three Italian words for soup.  Zuppa is generally used for simple soups, minestra is for a more substantial soup, such as a vegetable soup, and minestrone is considered to be a very substantial or large soup.  People often ask for a "classic" minestrone recipe but there is none.  Every region, city, town, and practically every family in Italy has its own version.  In Genoa, for instance, pesto is added to the traditional regional minestrone.  The important factor in making a a good minestrone is that fresh seasonal vegetables be used.  So naturally the ingredients of minestrone will change with the seasons.  Feel free to substitute vegetables in these recipes for what is available in your area.
ITALIAN SOUP RECIPES  >  ITALIAN VEGETABLE SOUPS
INGREDIENTS
Borlotti Beans - Dry
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Broccoli and Garlic Soup

(Serves 4)

Not only does broccoli taste good but it has many nutritional values.  Find more information about broccoli in this wonderful article:  43 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Broccoli

Ingredients:

1 head of broccoli (about 1 pound)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups water
Salt and pepper
1 cup ditalini or other small pasta
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Trim about 2 inches off the base of the broccoli stem.  Peel the stem with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.  Cut the broccoli florets from the stem and cut them into bite-size pieces; set aside. Cut the remaining stem crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices.

In a large saucepan, cook the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add the sliced broccoli stems, water, and salt to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes until the broccoli is very tender.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked stems to a blender or food processor. Process until smooth.  Return the puree to the water in the saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and add the broccoli florets and pasta.  Cook for 10 minutes or until the pasta is tender.  Stir in the parsley, a generous amount of pepper, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Check the seasoning; add more salt if necessary.

Serve with additional Parmesan cheese sprinkled on each serving.
Minestra alla Genoves
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RECIPES
Minestra alla Genovese
Vegetarian Tortellini Soup
Minestrone
Broccoli and Garlic Soup