Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Snowy Day Soup (Minestrone with Pesto)

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The Adirondack chairs and fire pit, longing for spring…

Is it snowing at your house?  It is at mine…Actually, I feel as though it’s been snowing since early December.  That first snow day of the year took my breath away.  The kids played outside while the fat flakes fell and I baked a batch of little pies, bursting with the blueberries we had picked in early July, in Michigan, in the 90-something-degree morning haze.  And those pies were the perfect way to welcome winter and to remind us that the heat and the haze were far behind us.

But I’m no longer interested in welcoming winter: today, I just want to keep warm.  Thus, soup.

I love soup.  I make it weekly, year round.  I’ll be making this same soup in July, I’m sure, and calling it something summery like “Bright Basil Minestrone.”  But today, it is “Snowy Day Soup,” made with a simple combination of things you have in your moderately well-stocked pantry…




Things you have withering, forgotten, in your crisper drawer…


And things you can easily pick up when you run out to the store to get milk and bread before the storm…


Your shopping list: dried ravioletti, white or kidney beans, and a little jar of pesto. (You see here the half-jar I had left over from the last pot of soup I made. I put it into a freezer bag a few weeks ago and then thawed it out yesterday.)

Please use this recipe as a suggestion only.  My family loves leafy green things like kale and spinach and cabbage.  If yours doesn’t, don’t use those veggies.  Whatever you have leftover in your crisper drawer is probably exactly what your family enjoys, so throw it in there instead of kale and cabbage and green beans, or use frozen vegetables instead of fresh or do whatever sounds right to you.  Here is what I did…

Snowy Day Soup

1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of your soup pot)

1 medium onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 slender stalks of celery, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced through a press

2 14.5 ounce cans of tomatoes

4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth

1/4 pound of kale

1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly

1/4 pound of skinny green beans, trimmed and halved

1/2 jar of pesto (from the pasta aisle) or more, if you want

1/2 package of dried tiny ravioli (You could also use some other small pasta, but the little salty raviolietti are our favorites.)

1 can white beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Salt to taste

2 or 3 cups of water

1. Saute your onion, carrots, and celery over medium heat until the onions are golden and soft.  Then add the garlic and a generous pinch of salt and stir until it smells like you really know what you’re doing.  (This is the point at which you hope your hunky husband will walk in, feel intoxicated by the homey smell of your golden vegetables, and congratulate himself on his cleverness for marrying you.)

2. Add your canned tomatoes, broth, pesto, veggies, and canned beans.   You may also need to add some water to get everything submerged.  If you are using something delicate like spinach, you might even want to save it until the end.  (That’s why I like kale instead of spinach: it doesn’t give up the ghost the second you show it the soup pot.  It puts up a fight.)  Simmer for at least 20 minutes.

3.  For heaven’s sake, please taste your soup after it’s simmered for a while.  Add more salt if it needs some–and it almost certainly will–or more pesto if you want more punch.  (If you have pesto left over, just dump it in a freezer bag and throw it into the freezer for the next batch.  I always get two pots of soup out of each little jar.)

4.  About 20 minutes before serving, add your ravioletti and allow them to get fat and soft.

You can leave this soup on the stove for a very long time, if you need to…or if you (like me) just enjoy the idea of a big pot of soup steaming up your kitchen window on a snowy day.  Just add more water as necessary, and be sure to leave your pasta until almost the end.  Image

I serve ours with some grated Parmesan on the side because, as everyone knows, kids love to sprinkle things on top.  And once they’ve sprinkled something on the bowl of soup, they feel it’s their very own creation and so they are even more likely to gobble it down.

I like to serve this soup with a batch of no-knead bread, which is the world’s easiest yeast bread.  I forgot to take a picture of mine before we devoured every last crumb of it, but I can assure you it is beautiful.  The crust crackles.  And it’s golden-brown–inexplicably so because there is not a drop of oil or butter in the dough.  I don’t ask too many questions, though.  Bread is always magic, and this one especially so.

You will be so amazed with yourself if you make it, especially because it looks so much better than it does on this website:

Even if you never make yeast bread, I promise you can follow that recipe.  Just be sure to start it in plenty of time to let it rise because it doesn’t have a whole lot of yeast in it, and it does take a while…especially in a cold, wintry kitchen.  (That’s one lovely side-effect of making it to go with your soup.  A simmering pot of soup on the stovetop will perfectly warm a bowl of bread dough on a nearby counter.)

Oh, if you have some salted butter, get it out of the fridge early in the day to soften up so you can serve it with your no-knead loaf.  This bread with a bit of salted butter will melt your whole family’s heart.

So soup it up, and keep warm.  Soup + Bread = True love


One thought on “Snowy Day Soup (Minestrone with Pesto)

  1. YUM! I love your new blog so much that I almost can’t stand it! I don’t know which I like most: the recipes, your photos, or reading what’s going on at your house! =)

    But if I had to pick a post to “like” first, this one is it! I have made this soup several times now a couple of ways and my whole family loves it. Even my sort of picky one. Yay! And, I also shared the recipe with a neighbor, who has declared it a new family favorite, too. Needless to say, I give this one a thumbs up for sure.

    By the way, I agree with you that the ravioletti are a must. And, if you *accidentally* use the whole jar of pesto, no worries.

    Thanks for this great soup story!!

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