Next Level Weekend (Part I): Minestrone, Tortellini, & Pesto

On the first calm weekend since the beginning of the summer, I wanted to get back in the kitchen and take on some new challenges. Having recently discovered Food52.com and the wide-variety of mouth-watering recipes available there, I was ready to jump in the deep end and see if I could swim. 

I set off on a two-night culinary adventure, which should only be explained with pictures. So, without further ado, here are the recipes I (successfully) took on.

Smokey Minestrone with Tortellini & Parsley Pesto

This recipe is pulled directly from Food 52. Click here for the original source.

Ingredients for Smokey Minestrone w/ Tortellini

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices preservative-free, all-natural bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 leek, trimmed and sliced thinly
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 15 oz. can of cooked chickpeas, preferably organic
1 28 oz. can of peeled San Marzano tomatoes, with juice
Salt
1 cup kale, chopped fine
1 9-ounce package of high quality, all-natural cheese tortellini

Ingredients for Parsley Pesto

1 cup loosely packed parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

One of these days I'll get fast enough at food prep that the time it takes me to prepare dinner won't take half a century, but I always love the end product!

One of these days I'll get fast enough at food prep that the time it takes me to prepare dinner won't take half a century, but I always love the end product!

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook for a couple of minutes, until they start to brown.

When a recipe starts with bacon, what could possibly go wrong?

When a recipe starts with bacon, what could possibly go wrong?

Add 2 more tablespoons of oil along with the chopped onion, garlic and leek. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until softened.

There's a leek in the pot!

There's a leek in the pot!

Add the chopped carrot, celery, zucchini, potato and stir around for a minute or two.

My body was in desperate need of some veggies—this was just what the doctor ordered.

My body was in desperate need of some veggies—this was just what the doctor ordered.

Add the stock, the chickpeas, and then the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you go. Add a few generous pinches of salt (be judicious if your stock is salted already). Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.

Oh the smells. If only I could bring them to you through your screen.

Oh the smells. If only I could bring them to you through your screen.

While that's simmering, prepare the Parsley Pesto. Chop, chop, and chop the parsley some more by hand until it's very fine...when you do this, you'll reduce it down to about 1/4 cup. As you chop the parsley, start to incorporate the other ingredients and chop them fine, too, until you have a lovely, finely chopped pesto. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the olive oil. Use as a garnish for the minestrone.

I chopped for days and have no idea if this is what the final product should look like, but it added great flavor!

I chopped for days and have no idea if this is what the final product should look like, but it added great flavor!

Add the kale and the tortellini, and continue to cook over a simmer until both are tender and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve garnished with a spoonful of the pesto, a few drops of the aged balsamic, and a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Yes, I came dangerously close to overfilling the pot, but close is not close enough.

Yes, I came dangerously close to overfilling the pot, but close is not close enough.

Finally, take a beautiful picture of your final product, then eat it in 30 seconds.

This was the bomb.com—no joke.

This was the bomb.com—no joke.


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