This post was originally shared in June 2016. It has been updated with significant changes and improvements to the recipe, text, and images as of June 2020.
I’m going to loosely define this as a spring minestrone. An Italian friend once told me that it’s not minestrone unless your spoon can stand up in it (bleurgh) and this is definitely not that kind of soup. It’s also not the tomato, bean, and noodle soup that’s usually associated with minestrone.
I used to think of this as an early summer soup, and it would be in many parts of Canada. Here, though, these vegetables come into season around now, in spring, and it’s a welcome change from root vegetables. I wanted to make the most of that with this spring green minestrone, with all the green veggies I could get my hands on.
The vegetables stay really bright tasting because of the very short cooking time, and the colour is vibrant. Topping it with pesto is not optional! The pesto is what takes this spring minestrone over the top. Best of all, it only takes about fifteen minutes to make!
- Olive oil
- Salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper
- Vegetable broth (the best you can make or find!)
- Cooked white beans
- Green peas
- Spinach (or other greens, see below)
- Basil, more olive oil and garlic, lemon, salt, and pepper for the pesto
This is a fifteen minute recipe, so it helps to prepare everything beforehand and have it on hand. Wash and chop your vegetables, make the pesto, and have your stock ready to go.
Sauté the onion in olive oil until softened. It should be just translucent and have that pleasant frying onion smell, but don’t brown much – a little bit is fine, but you don’t want to crisp it. Cook the garlic and zucchini briefly – if you want to, you can also brown the zucchini in a separate pan and add it at the end – and just stir in the spices. They don’t need to be cooked, really, but benefit from that hit of heat before adding the stock.
Bring the soup to a rolling boil. There’s not much in it yet, but once it’s boiling, you add the beans, asparagus, and peas. This cooks for just 4-5 minutes to barely cook the asparagus. Any longer will overcook the spears and overcooked asparagus is a waste.
The soup is taken off the heat, and lemon juice and spinach (or other greens) are stirred in. Taste after adding the lemon to check for seasoning, then top with the pesto and serve immediately.
Any hardy greens – rucola, kale, chard, etc. can be substituted for the spinach. You can use frozen greens, too, but it’s best to thaw them before adding for this recipe because the amount of time they’d need to thaw might result in overcooked asparagus.
Other green vegetables can be added, like broccolini, snap peas, leeks, whatever you think might be good. If you have garlic scapes, they make a great pesto to sub for the basil pesto. Broad beans are a nice switch for the white beans, as are chickpeas.
Recipe Notes and Tips
Please use the very best vegetable stock you can get your hands on, as it doesn’t cook for very long to develop that deep flavour that you’ll get in longer cooking soups and stews even with a shoddy stock.
This goes for all of the ingredients. Old asparagus that’s been sitting in the back of the vegetable drawer won’t be the best here; use the freshest ingredients you can find. The soup relies on the fresh, bright taste of the vegetables and pesto.
More Spring Mains
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Spring Green Minestrone
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 small 1 1/2 cups zucchini, cut into 2cm pieces
- 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
- 1.5 litres vegetable stock*
- 150 grams white beans, cooked
- 400 grams asparagus 1 bunch
- 150 grams peas
- 70 grams fresh spinach or other greens
- Juice of a lemon
No Cheese Pesto
- 40 grams basil, packed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- Juice of a lemon about 3 tablespoons
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes, until softened and slightly browned. Add the garlic and zucchini and cook for another minute, then stir in the spices.
- Add the vegetable stock and increase the heat to high. Bring the soup to a rolling bowl, then add the beans, asparagus, and peas.
- Reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for 4-5 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and just tender.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach and lemon juice. Serve hot, topped with pesto.
No Cheese Pesto
- Place all of the ingredients in a narrow bowl or container and use an immersion blender to mix until smooth. Alternatively, use a small food processor or blender.