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Genovese Vegetable Soup

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Serves: 6
Ingredients:

115g / 4oz French beans
200g / 7oz spinach leaves
225g / 8oz plum tomatoes
2 onions, sliced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2 potatoes, diced
115g / 4oz frozen peas
2 courgettes, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
2 litres / 3 1/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
140g / 5oz dried soup pasta
salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve


PESTO
2 garlic cloves
25g / 1oz pine kernels
115g / 4oz fresh basil leaves
55g / 2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
125ml / 4 fl oz olive oil
salt

Method:

Cut the beans into 2.5cm / 1inch lengths. Remove any coarse stalks from the spinach and shred. Peel the tomatoes by cutting a cross in the bottom of each and placing in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave for 35-45 seconds. Drain and plunge into cold water, then the skins will slide off easily. Deseed and dice the tomatoes, then place in a large, heavy-based saucepan together with the onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, peas, courgettes and garlic. Pour in the olive oil and stock and bring to the boil over a medium-low heat. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the Pesto. Put the garlic, pine kernels, basil and a pinch of salt into a mortar and pound to a paste with a pestle. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and gradually work in the Parmesan cheese. using a wooden spoon, followed by the olive oil to make a thick, creamy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cover with cling film and leave to chill in the refrigerator until required.

Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper and add the pasta. Cook for a further 8-10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite. The soup should be very thick. Stir in half the Pesto, remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to rest for 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. adding more salt, pepper and Pesto if necessary. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve immediately. Hand round the freshly grated Parmesan cheese separately.


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