The Italians know how to make the most of sweet spring vegetables so take a tip and turn a favourite winter soup into a spring meal. Home-made pesto makes all the difference in this bright minestrone. Make it with basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and olive oil using a mortar and pestle. As a gluten-free alternative to pasta, you could add cooked chickpeas at the end and just heat through.
1 large red onion
2 stalks celery
3 rashers smoked streaky bacon
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves
4 new potatoes
1 large tomato
4 baby zucchini, flowers attached
1 bunch asparagus
200g green beans
2 silverbeet leaves
4 small radicchio leaves
500g broad bean pods
150g dried soup pasta (or chickpeas)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
2 litres of vegetable or chicken stock (check gluten-free if required)
2 big handfuls of freshly podded peas
freshly ground black pepper
pesto and parmesan (optional), to serve
FINELY DICE THE ONION, celery and bacon. Finely chop the parsley and garlic. Cut potatoes and tomato into 1 1/2cm pieces. Remove flowers from zucchini, take the stamen out and roughly tear up petals. Slice zucchini into rounds. Remove woody ends from the asparagus. Cut asparagus and beans into 2cm lengths. Remove stem from silverbeet. Shred silverbeet and radicchio leaves.
POD THE BROAD BEANS, blanch in hot water, refresh and peel off second skins.
COOK THE PASTA in boiling salted water until al dente. Refresh in cold water, drain well and reserve.
WARM OIL in a large pot on a low heat. Sweat onion, celery, parsley and garlic with the sea salt for about 5 minutes. Add bacon and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add potato, silverbeet and tomato pieces and cook for another 5 minutes. Add stock, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add half the green beans, asparagus, zucchini and peas.
BRING TO A BOIL then cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook until just tender but still vibrant and green. Just before the soup is ready, add the shredded radicchio leaves, torn zucchini flowers and cooked pasta. Stir into soup and warm through. Check seasoning.
SERVE WITH a good grind of black pepper and a spoonful of pesto. Scatter some parmesan on top if you like.
Photography William Meppem Jennifer Soo Styling Hannah Meppem Food preparation Nick Banbury