One of the great reasons to house a large collection of cookbooks is the fact that you are blessed with an almost infinite number of recipe ideas.
One of the worst reasons to house a large collection of cookbooks is the fact that you are blessed with an almost infinite number of recipe ideas.
I have a problem, in that I love each and every cookbook I own for different reasons. But there are not enough hours in the day – or the year – to even make a dent cooking from them all. So I am forced to pick favorites.
One of my favorite cookbooks in the collection is an old, long out of print tome to Italian food. I grew up eating recipes that my mom would make from ‘Great Italian Cooking’ by Luigi Carnacina, an encyclopedic book containing more than 2300 recipes, originally published in 1968.
My mom’s copy is tattered and worn from many years of use and she’s not ready to give it up yet. I recently came upon a very-gently used copy for myself, and can’t wait to make the recipes I grew up feasting on, specifically this veggie-laden Minestrone.
Carnacina’s recipe for Minestrone Genovese gets a powerful flavor punch from the Genovese specialty, pesto. I have basil popping up all over my garden, and pesto is the best way to use it up. And although the weather is warming up, these cold spring rains keep me indoors craving a hot bowl of soup. This version, which I adapted from Carnacina’s recipe, puts to use a healthy dose of fresh vegetables, as well as some hold-overs from winter’s hearty cooking.
Unless you are growing it yourself, fresh basil may not be the easiest ingredient to come in the supermarket. Aside from grabbing bunches at the farmers market I would try to search it out, for fresh-made pesto is far superior to any store-bought variety. That being said, there are a few brands out there that would suffice nicely, which are typically found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket.
- For the pesto:
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
- 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, stems trimmed, loosely packed
- 4 tablespoons grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- For the minestrone:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces spinach and/or beet greens, washed and chopped
- 4 ounces lima beans (thawed, if frozen)
- ½ head Savoy cabbage, shredded
- 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 quarts (8 cups) water, vegetable stock or chicken broth
- ½ pound linguine, broken into 1-inch pieces
- Place all of the pesto ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender and puree at high speed until a smooth paste forms. Alternately, if you are feeling rustic, pound all of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle until it forms a smooth paste.
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the spinach and/or beet greens, lima beans, cabbage, potatoes, chopped onion, leek, salt and pepper. Cover with water or stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour. Bring back to a boil and stir in the pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. To serve, whisk in the pesto, stirring for a minute so all of the flavors can blend.