Spring Minestrone Soup with Parsley Lemon Pesto

Source: Cate Conniff, author of Seasons in the Wine Country: Recipes from The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (Chronicle, 2010)

Recipe Type: | Seasons:

It was served at CUESA’s Market to Table program on April 30, 2011

Many of spring’s green ingredients—peas, asparagus, leeks, and spinach—come together in this light but deeply satisfying, healthful, and lovely-to-look-at spring soup. When pesto is stirred into the warm soup, a whiff of lemon is released, an intoxicating invitation to spoon up the very last bit of broth. A full-flavored dry rosé of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon would work nicely with the green flavors of the pesto and vegetables. Look for a wine with good color.

Serves 6 to 8


Parsley Lemon Pesto
1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
Zest of two lemons (Meyer lemons, if available), about 2 tablespoons
¼ cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon minced garlic
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup olive oil

¼ cup olive oil
4 leeks (about 2 pounds), white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into ¼-inch slices and rinsed well
4 ounces baby carrots, peeled and trimmed, cut into ⅛-inch circles (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup white wine
2 quarts light vegetable or chicken broth (see Spring Vegetable Broth)
One 3- to 4-inch piece of Parmesan rind, if available
2 cups dried bow tie or other small pasta (about 6 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or as needed
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or as needed
12 ounces asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks cut on the diagonal into ½-inch pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (about 4 ounces)
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for passing


1.    For the pesto: Place the parsley, lemon zest, pine nuts, garlic, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 30 seconds or until the mixture becomes a rough paste. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil into the mixture and process until smooth. Refrigerate the pesto if you are not using it right away.

2.  For the soup: In a soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leek, carrot, and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, until the leeks begin to wilt and soften, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high. Add the wine and cook until almost dry, about 4 minutes.

3.  Add the stock and Parmesan rind and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, salt, and pepper. Bring the soup back to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Simmer, skimming off any foam, until the pasta is just soft, about 10 minutes.

4.  Add the asparagus and peas and simmer until the asparagus is just tender and still bright green, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach and allow to wilt, about 1 minute.

5.  Ladle the soup into bowls. Place a heaping tablespoon of pesto on top of each bowl of soup and serve. Invite the guests to mix the pesto into the soup and pass the grated cheese around the table.

Photo by Barry Jan

Farmers Market Ingredients