There is no reason we can’t enjoy soup in the summer. Sure, it’s hot outside, but your soup doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s delicious when just barely heated or even at room temperature.
Better yet, it’s a one-pot meal that comes together quickly, so you can spend more time outside (where it’s finally warm!) during these gorgeous summer days.
While you’re out there, grab whatever’s fresh from your garden because this recipe uses a lot of it. A summertime expression of a classic minestrone, this dish involves two types of summer squash, basil, tomatoes, pasta, and beans. Don’t let the abundance of produce fool you, this soup is complex and filling, while retaining the freshness of the season.
The secret, which I learned from everyone’s best teacher (Mom), is blending the soup slightly with an immersion blender once it’s cooked. This thickens the broth into a subtly creamy tomato goodness as the tender vegetables and beans get partially swirled into the broth itself. Instead of a watery base punctuated by sturdy bites of pasta, the end result is much more texturally balanced.
My first experience with minestrone soup was probably at an Olive Garden, where I enjoyed it mostly as a dipping mechanism for those infamous breadsticks. Blending the minestrone in this recipe gives it body and creaminess, which makes for a thicker, more filling soup that works well as a main course rather than a starter. With a bit of fresh lemon juice added for brightness and grated parmesan for a salty finish, this soup doesn’t need buttery breadsticks to shine (although they certainly wouldn’t hurt).
I chose zucchini and summer squash for this recipe, but you can use any vegetables that are currently taking over your garden, filling up your CSA box, or on sale at Stop & Shop. This would be great with green beans instead of zucchini, asparagus in the spring, or root vegetables in the winter.
You can purée the soup as much as you’d like, but I prefer to keep the structural integrity of the ingredients mostly in tact. I blend it only slightly, say, 5 seconds or so. You’ll be left with a colorful soup and a variety of texture to keep your teeth interested until the last slurp. But if you’d prefer something smoother, just keep the blender going- you’ll eventually get something like a minestrone-flavored tomato soup (wouldn’t that be interesting!).
To serve it up, grate plenty of fresh parmesan or pecorino on top, and drizzle on a bit of your best olive oil. Then crank out a few grinds of black pepper and you’re good to go. Oh, and pass the breadsticks.
This light soup brims with colorful summer vegetables for a simple warm-weather lunch or dinner. The dish comes together quickly, so you can spend more time enjoying long summer days and warm nights.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 large carrot chopped
- 1 celery stalk chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 cups water
- 2 or 3 small zucchini and/or summer squash chopped (about 2 cups total)
- 1.5 cups whole wheat farfalle shells or other short pasta
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans (or beans of choice) drained and rinsed
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- Freshly grated Parmesan for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Add the garlic and tomato paste, stir together for a minute or two, and stir in the tomatoes and the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. Stir in 5 cups water, one tablespoon of salt, and return to a simmer. Taste for seasoning (blow on your spoon! It will be HOT!) and adjust as necessary.
Add the zucchini and pasta to the broth and cook 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Stir in kidney beans and simmer for another 2-3 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Grind in some pepper, then taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Remove the bay leaf.
How’s the consistency? Too thick? Add more water and adjust the salt. Too brothy? Place a hand blender in the soup and give it a few buzzes until you've got the texture exactly how you like it.
Stir in the basil and fresh lemon juice. Serve with a sprinkling (or a snowfall) of Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, and freshly cracked black pepper.
This would be great with green beans instead of zucchini, asparagus in the spring, or even root vegetables in the winter.
You can purée the soup as much as you'd like. If you’d prefer something smoother, just keep the blender going- you'll eventually get something like a minestrone-flavored tomato soup.