This is an absolutely classic minestrone using seasonal vegetables, a pulse (in this case cannellini beans), a pasta (ditali) and finished with pesto. The method and sequence of cooking are fundamental: follow them step by step and the dish works. You can substitute different vegetables in different seasons. The pesto is not an authentic touch; it comes from the Nice region of France, which was originally part of the Kingdom of Savoy.
Cut the onion, carrots, celery and courgettes into 5 mm dice. Keep them separate. Cut the asparagus stalks into 1 cm lengths. Peel the broccoli stems and dice; cut the heads into small florets. In a wide, heavy-bottomed pan or casserole heat
Add the remaining vegetables and garlic, excluding the cannellini beans. Sweat for a further 10 minutes (you may need a little more oil). Season with salt and pepper, stir and add enough water to just cover the solids. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender (the carrots will be the judge of that).
Meanwhile blanch the ditali in boiling salted water for 4 minutes. Refresh in cold water and dress very lightly with olive oil to keep the pieces separate.
When the vegetables are tender, add the beans and pasta and simmer for 5 minutes. The soup is ready. Offer pesto for your guests to add to the soup.
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.