You don’t really need a recipe for minestrone, so think of this chicken version with pesto 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!
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 for minestrone.
The same is true for the pasta. I used small shells, but any small shaped pasta will lend the minestrone 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.
Finally, to the pesto. You can use store-bought pesto, or make your own by throwing the pesto ingredients in a blender while the minestrone 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.
More great minestrone recipes
Chicken Minestrone with Basil Pesto
- 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
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.
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.
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.
Serve the soup
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a few spoonfuls of pesto.