This super easy soup (no pun intended) is one of the most delicious ways to get your summer on and your veggies in, especially if you are on a neutropenic diet. When it’s really... hot outside, this soup is great eaten cold or at room temperature too. Its ingredient list may be long, but once the chopping is done the work is mostly over. Gentle, slow, simple cooking gradually builds its flavor up without any extra muss or fuss on your part. The addition of a blast of fresh summery basil at the very end simply perfects the flavor. Speaking of summer flavors, make sure to choose small, firm zucchini and squash for the soup. At the height of the summer when tomatoes are at their best, delicious, ripe, beefsteak tomatoes make this soup extra good.
Place the onions, carrots, garlic, potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, and diced tomatoes into a large pot. Set aside the macaroni, the cannellini beans, the frozen lima beans, and green beans until needed.
To the pot add the parmesan rind, if using, the bouquet garni, the cayenne pod, half the salt and 2 quarts of water, or enough to cover the vegetables by 1-inch. Bring to a boil over a medium high flame. Cover. Reduce the flame to medium low and simmer very gently for 45 minutes to an hour or until the vegetables are tender. The liquid should be barely bubbling.
While the soup is cooking, prepare the Basil Pesto. Set aside.
Remove the bouquet garni. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the cannellini beans. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the macaroni. Cook the pasta until it is almost ‘al dente’, usually 10-12 minutes but check the package for timing. 5 minutes before the end of the pasta cooking time, and add the frozen lima beans and the green beans to the soup. By the time the pasta is ready, they will be too. Mash some of the cannellini beans against the pan to thicken the broth and taste for salt - it will probably need more. Let the soup sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to develop.
Stir in the Basil Pesto. Serve immediately sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.
On a neutropenic diet, if you’ve made the pesto from scratch, let the soup cook for 2-3 minutes after you’ve stirred in the pesto. Jarred pesto can be stirred in as per recipe.
In the winter, or when I’m tired, I find it’s best to use a 14 oz can of diced Italian plum tomatoes instead of fresh, but at the height of the summer, when tomatoes are at their best, go for delicious, ripe, beefsteak or Roma tomatoes.
A bouquet garni is basically a bundle of herbs that is added to soups and stews to add flavor. They are particularly useful in vegetarian cooking. If you don’t have all the herbs, it’s not the end of the world. I often use just fresh parsley, bay leaf and dried rosemary. If you use cheesecloth for a wrapper, you could also add ½ teaspoon of whole black peppercorns.
To make a bouquet garni:
Lay 3 to 4 stems of flat leaf parsley together on a cutting board. On the leafy end, lay a bay leaf, a sprig of fresh thyme, a couple of sage leaves and a small sprig of fresh rosemary.
Roll the leaves together so that they end up wrapped in the parsley stems. Wrap in cheesecloth or tie with kitchen twine to secure the bundle. That’s it.