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A bountiful garden makes for a delicious soup: Minestra alla Genovese and award-winning Pesto with Chef Paolo Laboa

Use your own blend of vegetables to make this soup!

PORTLAND, Maine — This version of minestrone is both delicious AND nutritious. No stock required! In fact, all that is required is a diverse and bountiful garden or farmer's market. Feel free to experiment with your choice of vegetables, but we have included what went into the one you saw on air and has been featured in-house of late. Remember–and this certainly goes for the pesto too–don't forget to use your palate to taste test your preparation as it comes near completion.

Optional notes: you could add any dried, short pasta like conchiglie (shells) to augment the dish into more of an entree. The same could be said for carnaroli rice. Just don't forget to properly salt your water! Also, the quantity of each vegetable used is entirely flexible. Feel free to emphasize or minimize the flavor of any of them or, as mentioned, replace them with another vegetable altogether.

Soup: Minestra alla Genovese

1 eggplant, peeled and roughly chopped

bunch dandelion greens, roughly chopped

small bunch swiss chard, roughly chopped

2 potatoes, cubed

1 kohlrabi, peeled and cubed

1 celery root, peeled and cubed

2 parsnips, roughly chopped

2-3 carrots, roughly chopped

baby butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 leek, roughly chopped

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

sea salt to taste

Put all your chopped vegetables in a large pot and fill with water up to ONE INCH BELOW the height of the vegetables. Add oil and sea salt. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 3-4 hours. Once complete, turn off heat, but DO NOT pour out water (that is where all the nutrients are!). Use an immersion blender* (or piecemeal in a normal blender if necessary) in the pot and blend to a desired consistency. At this point you could ladle some into a sauté pan and add cooked pasta or rice to integrate before plating or simply serve into a bowl by itself. Then add your dollop of pesto. Buon appetito!

*Immersion blenders are handy, inexpensive tools for making all types of soups.

Pesto - Chef Paolo won the Pesto World Championship in 2008!

2 ounces (6 cups) loosely packed Genovese basil

-- not large, darker leaves! these are bitter and harder to work with

1/3 cup European pine nuts

-- Chinese are less expensive but less creamy and also bitter

1 small clove garlic, skinned

1/2 cup mild extra virgin olive oil (Rainier from Liguria is great!)

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1/3 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/3 cup freshly-rated Pecorino Sardo

Put your basil into cold water for minimum 5 minutes to soften and reduce bitterness. In the meantime, add oil, garlic and pine nuts to blender and blend to a creamy consistency. Next add both cheeses and blend to same consistency. Finally, pull your basil out of water and put directly into blender. The basil DOES NOT need to be shaken free of excess water. Add sea salt and PULSE to start the blending. The pulse feature minimizes the risk of "bruising" the basil. Once it starts to integrate fully, then blend fully for 5-10 seconds. Taste test. Adjust salt to preference if necessary and your pesto is ready! One healthy dollop right on top of the warmed soup is Solo's way. Leftover pesto commonly disappears with a side of fresh bread :)

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Chef Paolo is the executive chef at Solo Italiano in Portland. 

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