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Genoese Vegetable Soup with Small Shells


This classic vegetable soup is served with an equally classic pesto sauce that originated in the Ligurian port of Genoa. It makes a wonderful first course, for an informal dinner with family and friends.


  • 2 sliced onions
  • 2 diced carrots
  • 2 sliced celery sticks
  • 2 diced potatoes
  • 115g French beans, cut into 2.5cm lengths
  • 115g frozen peas
  • 200g fresh chopped spinach leaves
  • 2 diced courgettes
  • 225g Italian plum tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 litres / 3 ½ pints vegetable or chicken stock
  • 140g Nnova Rice Small Shells
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve

For the pesto:

  • 55g fresh basil leaves
  • 15g pine kernels
  • 1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 25g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil


  • Put the onions carrots, celery, potatoes, beans, peas, spinach, courgette, tomatoes, and garlic in a large, heavy-based saucepan, pour in the olive oil and stock and bring to the boil over a medium-low heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently for about 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the pesto. Put the basil, pine kernels, garlic, and a pinch of salt into a mortar and pound to a paste with a pestle. Transfer to a bowl and gradually work in the parmesan with a wooden spoon, followed by the olive oil to make a thick, creamy sauce. Cover with clingfilm and set aside in the refrigerator until required.
  • Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add the pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the pasta is tender, but still firm to the bite. The soup should be very thick.
  • Stir in half the pesto, remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to rest for 4 minutes.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, and pesto if necessary (Any leftover pesto may be stored in a screw-top jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks)
  • Ladle into warmed bowls and serve immediately. Hand round the freshly grated parmesan cheese separately.

Cooking Tips:

To peel tomatoes, cut a crossing the base of each and place in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave for 30-45 seconds. Drin and plunge into cold water, then the skins will slide off easily.

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