Chicken Minestrone with Basil Pesto

Here's an easy chicken minestrone with basil pesto! It's easy to adapt with whatever beans, pasta, and fresh vegetables you have in the pantry. Feeds a crowd and freezes well.

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Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

You don’t really need a recipe for minestrone, so think of this recipe as more of a guideline.

The key ingredients to this ubiquitous Italian soup are beans, pasta, and tomatoes. Beyond that, you can add whatever vegetables are in season, leftover chicken from another meal, or any number of things.

What’s fresh and in season? What do you have in your crisper drawer or pantry already? Take this recipe and make it your own!

Chicken Minestrone with Basil Pesto

No bean in my cupboard escapes candidacy for the soup (except maybe black beans). I call for cannellini beans in today’s recipe, but chickpeas, kidney beans, cranberry or navy beans are all good options.

The same is true for the pasta. I used small shells, but any small shaped pasta will lend the soup a thick and hearty texture.

I am, however, highly opinionated about canned tomatoes. It would be easy enough to use any random can of diced tomatoes, but I always prefer to use canned whole San Marzano tomatoes.

These tomatoes are flavorful, soft enough to squish with your hands, and suspended in their own thick sauce. With cheaper brands, you often end up with under-ripe tomatoes in a thin sauce: acceptable but not optimal.

Even when you pay an extra dollar for high-quality tomatoes, they are still probably one of the best bargains at the grocery store.

Chicken Minestrone with Basil Pesto

Finally, to the pesto. You can use store-bought pesto, or make your own by throwing the pesto ingredients in a blender while the soup is simmering. This is also a great way to use up any pesto you froze earlier in the summer.

By the way, if you’d like to preserve your pesto’s bright green color, try blanching the basil leaves for just a few seconds in boiling water before blending the pesto. Plunge the basil in ice water after blanching, then squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Yes, the pesto is pretty spooned over your bowl of minestrone, but it also adds a deep herbal and cheesy flavor to every bite.

Chicken Minestrone with Basil Pesto Recipe

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Use leftover chicken for this recipe, or quickly poach a few chicken breasts: How to Poach Chicken Breasts, the Quick and Easy Way.

Leftover soup will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. It also freezes well, and can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Vegetarian Variation: Skip the chicken, and add cubes of potatoes and some thinly sliced cabbage. Use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 ribs celery, diced small
  • 3 medium carrots, diced small
  • 2 small (12 ounces) zucchini, diced small
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole San Marzano tomatoes, with juices
  • 6 cups chicken stock or water
  • 1/2 cup small pasta, such as small shells, ditalini, or ancini di pepe,
  • 2 handfuls (8 ounces) green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought

Method

1 Cook the vegetables: In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion, celery, carrots, zucchini, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.

Chicken Minestrone with Basil Pesto Chicken Minestrone with Basil Pesto

2 Crush the tomatoes in a bowl: Pour the tomatoes and their juices into a bowl. Using your hands, a dinner fork, or a potato masher, crush the tomatoes into small pieces.

Chicken Minestrone with Basil Pesto

3 Simmer the soup: Add the beans, crushed tomatoes and stock or water to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 8 minutes. Add the green beans and the pasta and continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Stir in the shredded chicken and cook for another minute, or until the soup is hot all the way through.

Taste the soup and add more salt and black pepper to taste.

If you haven't already done so, make your pesto while the soup simmers.

4 Serve the soup: Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a few spoonfuls of pesto.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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Chicken Minestrone with Basil Pesto

4 Comments

  1. Laura

    Delicious! I am not a fan of cooking pasta in the soup, however. I cook it separately and add with each serving.

    • Sally

      Hi Laura, I agree about cooking the pasta separately, especially if you know you will have leftovers to freeze or eat a few days later. Cooking the pasta with the pot of vegetables gives the soup a little more body and cuts down on an extra pot to wash. I go back and forth on this one!

  2. Alice lovely

    It looks tasty and delicious!!Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Ethel

    Looks great if you don’t wanna use the Pesto will it still be good

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