End of Summer Vegetable Soup With Pesto

End of Summer Vegetable Soup With Pesto

Raise your hand if you still have a pile of zucchini to use up on this second day of what is now officially fall. And how about perfectly juicy summer tomatoes? My farmers market is still pumping out summer produce by the box, so I’ve still got it on my mind.

And since I’ve also got tubs of pesto waiting to be used in my freezer, I put two and two together and the end result did not suck. This soup is fresh and bright and satisfying and perfect for the first slightly cool days of fall.

End of Summer Vegetable Soup With Pesto

If you didn’t go to the trouble of making your own pesto, you should maybe consider it? But if it’s just not happening, at least go to a store that makes their own in house, and ask if you can sample it before you buy (or if you have a brand you already know and love, use that). Pesto is a huge player in this soup so it has to be on point.

I served my soup with a cheese and charcuterie board and some toasted baguettes. Nobody was mad about it.

End of Summer Vegetable Soup With Pesto

End of Summer vegetable Soup With Pesto
makes 6-8 servings


-1 Tbsp olive oil or butter
-2-3 leeks, chopped and washed of grit
-2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
-2-3 zucchini, diced
-2 yellow tomatoes, diced
-1-2 ears fresh corn, or about 1/2 a small bag of frozen corn
-6 cups chicken broth (it’s extra tasty and you get brownie points if you use homemade broth)
-2 cups fresh spinach (frozen will also work, but won’t be as pretty)
-2-3 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
-salt and white pepper, to taste (black pepper is also fine)
-1/4 cup pesto, stirred into the soup, plus more for topping (probably 1/2-3/4 cup total, depending on how many you are feeding)
-optional: parmesan cheese for topping


1. Start by cooking your leeks over medium heat in your fat of choice in a large soup pot. When the leeks are wilted, add garlic and stir for a minute.

2. When the garlic is fragrant, add diced zucchini and cook until the zucchini is soft.

3. Add diced tomatoes, corn, and chicken broth and bring the soup to a boil. Add spinach and allow it to wilt into the soup. Add salt, pepper, and lemon or vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. The soup will get an added hit of flavor from the pesto, but it should be able to stand on its own seasoning-wise. Summer vegetables tend to be watery too, so you may need to add more salt than you think (depending on the saltiness of the broth you use). Taste, taste, taste.

4. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of pesto, taste again and adjust seasoning if necessary.

5. Serve soup with a dollop of pesto on top and a shave or two of parmesan cheese. And definitely some toasty bread on the side.

6. This soup freezes well so, if you didn’t finish your batch, stash the rest in some freezer-safe containers and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge (this will take at least a day) and re-heat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave, stopping and stirring after every minute or so. Future you will appreciate the effort.

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Batch Fest: Pesto


It’s time to make pesto. A lot of pesto.

I haven’t personally ventured into the canning, jam-making homestead-y realm of cooking (YET!), but I have been known to freeze summer’s most precious produce for later consumption. No special equipment is needed for batch freezing apart from plastic containers and freezer space, and I can save my favorites long enough to get to revisit them during that dark night of the soul known as winter after the holidays. I realize that basil can be bought year-round in most of America these days, but it’s not the same to me. And don’t even get me started on store bought pesto (dull. sham. flames. on the side of my face.).

Though to be fair I didn’t know anything about really good pesto until I got a kitchen job where I had to make it all the time. Once I had the real thing, I was ruined for everything else, and now I can’t live without the stuff. Proper stuff. With piles of fresh cheese and garlic and toasted nuts and basil that is properly blanched (for prettiness, ease of blending, and I swear it changes the flavor). Nothing compares.

If you’ve had good pesto without blanched basil it might be hard for me to convince you that blanching is important. Maybe we could debate it. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I really think it’s worth the extra trouble. I say I will be freezing my pesto so I can revisit it in winter, but if I’m honest, it will most likely be gone by November because I put it in and on everything.

Like eggs. D you know how good pesto on toast is with a runny fried egg on top (or folded into soft scrambled fluffiness)? Look into it.


Big Batch of Pesto
(makes about 4 cups pesto per cup of blanched basil)

-as much basil as you can get your hands on
-about 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, or whatever mix of those that you like for each cup of basil (after blanching)
-about 3-4 cloves garlic per cup of blanched basil
-about 1 1/2 cups parmesan, finely grated, per cup of blanched basil
-about 1 cup pecorino romano, finely grated, per cup of blanched basil
-about 1 cup olive oil per cup of blanched basil
-salt, to taste


1. Start by blanching your basil, since all your other measurements depend on how much the basil shrinks after it’s blanched and squeezed. While picking the basil leaves from the stems, set a medium pot of water over high heat and wait for it to boil. When the water boils, turn the heat to medium-high. After your basil is picked, get a bowl of ice water ready and set it next to the stove. Drop bunches of basil into the hot water until they are just wilted and use a slotted spoon to transfer the wilted basil into the ice water. You will likely have to work in batches because raw basil is very voluminous, but it goes quickly.

2. When all the basil is blanched and cooled in the ice water, remove the basil to a clean tea towel and wring it out over the sink. Separate your basil into one-cup portions.

3. Place a cup of blanched basil in the bowl of a food processor along with the toasted nuts and garlic, and pulse to finely chop the ingredients.

4. Scrape down the sides of the food processor and add the grated parmesan and pecorino cheese.

5. Turn on the food processor and let it run while you slowly pour in your olive oil. Scrape down the bowl and pulse to re-mix as necessary.

6. Taste the pesto, add salt until it is as savory as you like. Add olive oil if the pesto is too thick and more cheese or nuts if it is too thin.

7. Portion the pesto into freezable, airtight containers, mark them with the date they were made, and stash them for later use. You can store them in the freezer for up to 6 months and defrost them in the fridge when you want to eat them. Possibly atop a slice of toast and beneath an over-easy egg.

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