What would you like for dinner? At our house, soup is often the answer. After a few days ofexcess — a series of dinner guests or one too many restaurant forays —it feels like a clean, quiet choice. In every season, soup can be just right.
Some vegetable soups are complex and long simmered, but that’s not what you want in the middle of July. This light, brothy take brims with full-flavored summer vegetables for a colorful minestrone that can be put together in a mere half-hour or so.
If you don’t have a vegetable garden — or access to a friend’s bounty — it’s worth going to the farmers’ market for the freshest, sweetest produce, because this soup is all about vegetables.
With a handful of green beans, a few tomatoes, some just-picked zucchini or pattypan squash, you’ll be well on your way to a quick pot of soup. Feel free to include other vegetables, like peas, favas or shelling beans. Up the number of tomatoes, too, if you wish, but I prefer this soup with a hint of tomato, to let the other components’ flavors shine.
The soup itself is more method than recipe: First, warm the olive oil in a soup pot. Add a large chopped onion and cook until softened. Throw in some chopped garlic, a bay leaf and a fresh ripe chopped tomato or two, along with a dab of tomato paste, a pinch of crushed red pepper and perhaps a splash of white wine. Season this mixture generously with salt and pepper: It is the essential flavorful base for a quick soup.
[For more on soup, check out our How to Make Soup guide.]
The rest is easy. Add water (or broth, if you have it, but that’s really unnecessary) and chopped vegetables, then simmer briskly and briefly.
While the soup is cooking, make a quick pesto with garlic, basil, olive oil and a little Parmesan. I find pleasure in pounding the pesto the old-fashioned way with a mortar and pestle, but you can always make it in a food processor or with a sharp knife.
To finish, some small pasta shapes, like pennette or orecchiette, can be cooked directly in the soup, or prepared in a separate pot and added to each bowl. Spoon a bit of pesto into each serving and pass grated Parmesan at the table.
For a warm-weather lunch or supper, the simplicity of this soup is very appealing and, even though it’s served warm, it’s still quite refreshing.
Recipe: Summer Minestrone al Pesto
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