Minestrone Soup With White Beans, Yams, and Pesto

I remember
talking to my youngest brother many years ago.  He didn't know how to cook when he left home, but ended up becoming great at it. How did it happen? First we lost our father to cancer when we were in our 20's. Then a few years after that he lost his fiancée to cancer. Eating a healthy diet became a focus.  

His journey learning how to cook involved buying new cooking appliances and new cookbooks whenever he started losing interest. He followed recipe instructions to the letter, rarely changing anything. If he went out to eat with a friend of a different ethnicity, he would try something really unique, then come home and find a way to recreate it for his family. The result was he created fabulous meals

When I had a full load at home - husband and three kids - cooking was a free for all.  After thee left home, I lost interest. What's the fun of cooking for two? As we aged, a healthy diet became increasingly import, so I decided to embrace my brother's tactic. At first I bought cookbooks, but found I hardly used them. I changed thing up - watching random cooking shows and surfing the internet for ideas.  There was a benefit. It turns out the more you search for recipes, the more the search engine randomly offers unexpected ones to you. Unlike my brother, I do play around with the what is written, sometimes with great results, other times not so great.

This Minestrone Soup is from The Kitchen. I didn't see it on one of their shows, but have visited their website many times so it popped up unbidden on social media. I love soup and I love veggies.  This version is a unique from what I made before as it doesn't include any pasta, but it does include yams, cheese rind, and pesto. I have also never used cheese rind to flavor a soup.

My husband who is a true carnivore ate it without complaint, but no compliment either. I, however, really enjoyed it.  Minestrone is a classic soup using tomatoes, other vegetables, a basic broth and seasonings, and it is super healthy.  The only thing I am not sure I will add again is the lemon juice. I'm on the fence about that. I will be eating the leftovers for lunch over the next few days - perfect for our grey damp weather forecast.


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Minestrone Soup With White Beans, Yams, and Pesto
Makes 3 quarts

Ingredients - 

1                    Medium sweet onion  (original recipe used yellow onion)
6                    Medium stalks of celery
1                    Large Zucchini
3                    Medium Carrots
1                    Small yam (about 5-6 oz)
2                    Cloves garlic
15-oz             Can white beans
2 T                 Olive oil
2 T                 Unsalted Butter
2 tsp               Kosher Salt
1                    2x3 inch piece Parmesan or Asiago Rind
28 oz             Can diced tomatoes with juice
6 C                Low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2                 Medium Lemon (might omit this next time)
2 T                 Basil pesto plus more for serving
4 C                 Fresh baby spinach or baby kale
Parmesan cheese and crusty bread, for serving

Instructions -

Prepare the vegetables. Dice onion, celery, zucchini, carrots and yam (no larger than 1/2-inch). Finely mince or press 2 garlic cloves. Drain and rinse 1 can white beans.

Place 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once the butter melts and begins to sizzle, add the onion and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté until softened but not browned. Add the carrots and celery and cook until brightened in color. Add the yam and sauté until slightly softened at the edges. Stir in the zucchini and garlic, and cook until softened.

Add seasonings, tomatoes, and broth. Add the 2x3-inch piece of cheese rind,  diced tomatoes and their juices, broth, and the rinsed beans. Stir to combine and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until the carrots and sweet potato are tender. About 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove and discard the Parmesan rind. Squeeze in the juice from 1/2 lemon (if used - not sure I liked this). Stir in basil pesto and baby spinach or baby kale, then simmer until the greens wilt. Taste and season with salt as needed.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Thinly shave Parmesan cheese with a Y-peeler (or coarsely grate) and scatter onto the soup. Top with a small dollop of pesto. Serve with crusty bread. 

Note - I bought a sourdough focaccia, cross sliced it, laid the slices on a cookie sheet, brushed them with olive oil, and broiled until the tops were crusty and  brown. They were perfect for dipping into the soup.