Tag Archives: Basil Pesto

The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

Italian Soup
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

I spent some time in Italy this fall and, of course, now I am totally motivated to do more Italian-inspired cooking like this minestrone soup, for example.  It’s very easy to get inspired when traveling to beautiful parts of the world, especially those known for fine cuisine and wines!

Cinque Terre
Manarola, Italy

Vineyards were busy as the grape harvesting was on when we were in Italy. The one in the photo below was near Manarola in Cinque Terre (Liguria Region)  on the rugged Italian Rivieria. Those are terraced vineyards you see in the background in the photo above and a close up of one in the photo below as harvesters collect the grapes for winemaking.

Grape Harvesting
Harvesting Grapes near Manarola, Italy

And, of course, I always check out the local farmers markets, like the one below in Venice, when I travel.

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And, I can never pass up colorful Italian pasta or good quality olive oil!

Pasta
Italian Pasta (Venice, Italy)

But, alas, I am back home in my Prince Edward Island kitchen with lots of ideas for Italian-inspired dishes.  I have actually been making this minestrone soup for many years, tweaking and adjusting it until it reached my satisfaction. In fact, it is a staple in my freezer – I freeze portion-sized servings and then take them to work for weekday lunches. Served with a homemade biscuit, crusty roll, or garlic bread, this is a filling soup.

Minestrone
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

Minestrone is what I call the “kitchen sink of soups” because many different ingredients can be included in the soup, almost everything but the kitchen sink! It’s often called “the big soup” for a reason and that is because it contains lots of ingredients. This is a vegetable-type soup that, no matter the recipe, will contain common ingredients like beans, onions, tomatoes, a variety of vegetables, and some kind of pasta.  Other ingredients, such as meat, can be added as well to make it a more hearty meal.  Pretty much any vegetables you like can be added to the soup but you will generally find carrots, peas, string beans, tomatoes, and zucchini in most minestrone soups. There is no fixed recipe as such for minestrone and ingredients vary according to the regions of Italy and what is in season and available at the time the soup is made. There are as many versions of this soup as there are cooks! I have tasted minestrone in different restaurants and they all taste different but they all still go by the same name!

Minestrone
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

This Mediterranean soup is cooked in a broth – beef, chicken, or vegetable stock may be used. Like many soups with vegetables, I find the broth needs some extra seasoning. I rely heavily on basil, oregano, and Italian seasoning for this soup and these are somewhat standard in most minestrone recipes. To further deepen the flavor, I also add a couple of tablespoons of my homemade basil pesto. You can find my pesto recipe by clicking here.

Pesto
Basil Pesto

What follows is my recipe for Beefy Minestrone (printable version of the recipe follows at end of posting).

The Bistro's Beefy Minestrone Soup
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone Soup

The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

Ingredients:
 
330g (¾ lb) stew beef, cut into small ¼” – ½” bite-size cubes
2 tbsp cooking oil
2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh fennel, very finely chopped (optional but good)
½ cup celery, chopped
2/3 cup carrots, sliced thinly

1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 – 284 ml (apx. 10 oz) can tomato soup
2 tbsp tomato paste
6 cups stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1½ tsp fresh lemon juice
1½ tsp brown sugar
1¾ tsp dried basil
1¾ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup green or yellow string beans (fresh or frozen), cut into 1”–1½ “ inch pieces
1 – 540 ml can (apx. 18 oz) six-bean medley or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
160 g (apx. 1¼ cups) zucchini, diced
1 cup uncooked elbow pasta
1½ cups frozen peas

1-2 tbsp basil pesto

Olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

In large stock pot, brown beef cubes in oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add onion, garlic, fennel, celery, and carrots.  Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding a small amount of additional oil, if necessary.

Add the next 11 ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook slowly for about 12-15 minutes.  Add the string beans.  Simmer for 5-7 minutes.

Stir in the six-bean medley (or red kidney beans), zucchini, elbow pasta, and frozen peas. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 7-10 minutes, or until pasta is just fork tender.

Remove soup from heat and stir in the basil pesto.  Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with either a drizzle of olive oil or grated Parmesan cheese.

Yield: Apx. 12, one-cup servings

Pin This Minestrone Recipe To Pinterest!

Minestrone
The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone

Yield: Apx 12, one-cup servings

An Italian-inspired hearty minestrone soup with beef and a variety of tasty and healthy vegetables and pasta cooked in a broth flavored with basil and oregano

Ingredients

  • 330g (¾ lb) stew beef, cut into small ¼” – ½” bite-size cubes
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh fennel, very finely chopped (optional but good)
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • 2/3 cup carrots, sliced thinly
  • 1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 – 284 ml (apx. 10 oz) can tomato soup
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 cups stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp brown sugar
  • 1¾ tsp dried basil
  • 1¾ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup green or yellow string beans (fresh or frozen), cut into 1” – 1½ “ inch pieces
  • 1 – 540 ml can (apx. 18 oz) six-bean medley or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 160 g (apx. 1¼ cups) zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup uncooked elbow pasta
  • 1½ cups frozen peas
  • 1-2 tbsp basil pesto
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In large stock pot, brown beef cubes in oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add onion, garlic, fennel, celery, and carrots. Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding a small amount of additional oil, if necessary.
  2. Add the next 11 ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook slowly for about 12-15 minutes. Add the string beans. Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the six-bean medley or red kidney beans, zucchini, elbow pasta, and frozen peas. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 7-10 minutes, or until pasta is just fork tender.
  4. Remove soup from heat and stir in the basil pesto. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with either a drizzle of olive oil or grated Parmesan cheese.
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Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto
Basil Pesto

Fresh basil is plentiful in many gardens and at farmers’ markets right now.  It’s a good time to make a batch or two of basil pesto.

Basil pesto is so versatile.  It can be used on pizzas, in pasta dishes, mixed with mayo for a sandwich spread, in soups, salads, in wraps, spread with butter over corn on the cob, as an ingredient in steamed mussels, and the list goes on.  As any creative cook will attest, basil pesto is a good staple to have on hand.

If you have an abundance of basil growing in your herb garden, or otherwise at your disposal, making pesto is a quick, easy, simple way to process it for a multitude of uses.  It takes very few ingredients but, fair warning, one key ingredient is very expensive – pine nuts.  However, the recipe doesn’t take many, thankfully.  I bought 1/4 cup to use in my recipe and it came to $2.65.  Walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts.

One of the easiest ways to store pesto is to freeze it in ice cube trays.

Freezing Basil Pesto
Freezing Basil Pesto

Simply place a large piece of plastic wrap over the ice cube slots and fill each with the pesto.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for several hours.  Remove from freezer and lift the plastic wrap with the frozen pesto cubes from the tray.  Peel off the frozen pesto cubes and store them in a sealed container or plastic bag in the freezer.  These are very handy because they can easily be popped into soup or quickly thawed for spreading on your favorite sandwich or wrap or used in any other dish in which you would normally use basil pesto.  If you need more than a tablespoon or two of pesto at a time then, of course, you will want to freeze the pesto in larger containers.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups gently packed fresh basil leaves (washed and dried)
¼ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Ingredients for Basil Pesto
Ingredients for Basil Pesto

My fresh basil is from Just A Little Farm in Bonshaw, PEI.  Farmer Jessica Vos grows her herbs and vegetables naturally with no chemicals.

Fresh Organic Basil from "Just A Little Farm", Bonshaw, PEI
Fresh Organic Basil from “Just A Little Farm”, Bonshaw, PEI

In food processor, mix together the basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic.

Adding the pine nuts
Adding the pine nuts
Adding the garlic
Adding the garlic

Pulse the Pesto!

Pulse until mixture is finely chopped into a paste.

Pulse the Pesto!
Pulse the Pesto!

With the food processor running, add about ⅓ of the olive oil in a steady, slow stream. Reserve remaining oil for drizzling over finished pesto.

Adding the olive oil
Adding the olive oil

Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse again.

Adding the Parmesan Cheese
Adding the Parmesan Cheese

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Adding the salt
Adding the salt
Adding the freshly-ground pepper
Adding the freshly-ground pepper

Bottle the pesto and drizzle remaining olive oil over the pesto. Store pesto in refrigerator or freeze.

Bottling the Pesto
Bottling the pesto and adding remainder of olive oil

Yield:  Apx. ¾ cup

Homemade Basil Pesto
Homemade Basil Pesto

Here are a couple of my favorite uses of basil pesto.

Corn on the Cob – Slather some butter and basil pesto on hot steamed peaches and cream corn.

Basil Pesto on Corn on the Cob
Basil Pesto on Corn on the Cob

We love our PEI mussels!  A cube of basil pesto is a quick way to add some extra flavor to the steaming broth for mussels.  Added to some onion, garlic, and white wine, the pesto deepens the flavour of the mussels.

PEI mussels steamed in basil pesto with white wine, onion, and garlic
PEI mussels steamed in basil pesto with white wine, onion, and garlic

Oh, and don’t forget to dip those tasty little morsels in melted butter!

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