Classic minestrone, packed full of vegetables, white beans, and ditalini, then given a flavor boost with basil pesto, this was the perfect end to a cool, cloudy day with rain just out there on the radar. It’s a handy recipe to pull out, especially when your garden has provided you with most of the ingredients. The only thing you’ll need to buy is the ditalini. I like the shape of ditalini in this but you substitute other small pasta shapes like orzo or small shells, or use rice instead. If you happen to have a rind of Parmesan cheese laying around, throw that in the cooking pot too.

This is easy to make but there is some chopping involved. Try to keep all of the vegetables roughly the same size so they’ll cook evenly, and only add the zucchini and pasta after the denser carrots and potatoes are mostly cooked. Save the beans, spinach and pesto to add just at the end for about 5 minutes. I prefer to cook it just enough so that the carrots and potatoes have a little resistance when you bite into them. When I have fresh green beans they go into this too, but if canned beans are the only option put them in at the end. No vegetable bouillon? This base from Better Than Bouillon, likely available at your local grocery, is great to keep in the fridge. Two tablespoons of base and eight cups of water make enough liquid for this soup. Since dry beans are so easy to cook in an Instant Pot I used some bouillon for that too. A whole pound of white beans, soaked overnight in water, drained, then covered by about 1″ of vegetable bouillon in the Instant Pot and cooked for 15 minutes under pressure yields around 6 cups of flavorful cooked beans. Save any liquid left after draining the cooked beans to be part of the 8 cups you need.

Soup, cheese, fresh biscuits or crusty bread, and dinner is ready. Leftover soup just gets better after a day or two.

– Joan, 8 May 2020



  • 2 small or 1 large leek, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large white or yellow potato, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/4 lb. fresh green beans, cut into 3″ pieces or 1 15-oz. can green beans
  • 28-32 oz. canned tomato chunks, drained
  • Parmesan cheese rind, optional
  • 8 cups vegetable stock or bouillon (bean cooking liquid included)
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small-medium zucchini, cut into 3/4″ chunks
  • 1 cup ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1 10-oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry or 3 cups chopped fresh spinach or kale
  • 1 15-oz. can white beans or 1½-2 cups cooked beans (from dry)
  • 2-4 tablespoons basil pesto

Put everything down to the zucchini into a large heavy pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, till carrots and potatoes are almost cooked. Add the zucchini and cook for 5-10 minutes, then add pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes, till the pasta is al dente. Add spinach, beans, and pesto, cooking an additional 5 minutes till they are heated throughout. Serve immediately with cheese and biscuits, cornbread, or crusty bread. Refrigerate leftovers.




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