Makes 12 cups - 10 to 12 servings
This is one of my favorite meals in a bowl, brimming with vegetables, pasta, and beans. Pistou, the Provençal basil and tomato version of pesto, transforms the humble ingredients into gastronomic gold. This minestrone ideal for a do-ahead dinner for large groups and needs simply to be accompanied by a green salad and crusty Italian bread.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
5 cups canned chicken stock or vegetable stock (prepare using concentrate, cubes, or powder)
One 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juice
4 small red-skinned potatoes (about 10 ounces), scrubbed and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 cups (about 8 ounces) green beans in 2-inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch slices
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans
3 ounces spaghetti (¾-inch bundle), broken into 2-inch pieces
One 6-ounce can tomato paste
¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil, or 2 teaspoons dried basil
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
Salt to taste
Thinly shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and 2 garlic cloves; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, tomatoes with juice, potatoes, green beans, carrots, zucchini, and oregano. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are almost tender, about 25 minutes.
Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir in the beans and spaghetti. Reduce the heat; cover and cook until the spaghetti is tender, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together the tomato paste, parsley, basil, pepper, and the remaining 2 cloves garlic; whisk into the soup. Add about ½ cup of the soup liquid and stir until smooth. When the spaghetti is cooked, gently stir this mixture into the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Ladle into large soup bowls and garnish with the Parmesan.
Prepare this soup up to the step of adding the beans and spaghetti; refrigerate in a covered container for up to 3 days. Just before serving, bring the soup to a boil, add the beans and spaghetti, and complete according to the recipe. Add more vegetable stock or water to thin as desired.
Paulette Mitchell, a culinary instructor, television personality, spokesperson, freelance food writer, and the award-winning author of 13 cookbooks, is known internationally for her quick-to-prepare recipes with gourmet flair. Paulette's most recently published cookbook is "The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Made Fast and Fresh." She is also the author of "A Beautiful Bowl of Soup" and "The Spirited Vegetarian," which was voted "Best Book in the World on Cooking with Wine" at the 2005 Gourmand World Media Awards. Paulette says that international travel is her favorite source of culinary inspiration.