A minestra is an ancient Italian dish, closer to our old English “pottage” than a soup. It’s from the time before blenders! It’s a great one pot dish and typically contains either pasta or rice. Genoa is famous for its basil, and a great way of preserving fresh basil is to make it into pesto, which keeps a long time, and adds a special twist to this dish.

You will need:


  • 1 large pot with lid


  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium Carrot
  • 1 small – med potato
  • 80g (1 small handful) frozen or fresh green beans
  • 50g small pasta shapes
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 veg stock cube
  • 600ml water
  • Black pepper
  • 65g (one third jar) pesto*

* Note that pesto contains nuts! If you don’t eat nuts, try the Soupe au Pistou version.

Tips & Tricks:

If you grow your own basil, you can make the lighter French Provencal soup, Soupe au Pistou; substitute a half tin of white beans for the pasta and courgette for the carrot, add 2 Tbs finely chopped basil instead of pesto, with an extra garlic clove.

Frozen vegetables are much more economical than fresh ones and you are less likely to waste them as you just take out what you need. Frozen beans can even be chopped up whilst still frozen, and work perfectly in this dish – they are usually less than half the price of fresh.

If you’ve other random vegetables like courgette or peppers hanging around in your fridge, chop or grate them and throw them in too! If you’re on a tight budget, buy only extra virgin olive oil and save it to use it where the taste matters, like in this dish.

Other times, you can use cheaper vegetable oil as if it isn’t extra virgin, you can’t taste the difference.

Basil and mint are the easiest herbs to grow on a sunny windowsill so long as you keep watering them! See our tip above for Soupe au Pistou