Spring Vegetable Soup with Pesto
Heat the stock while you are preparing the vegetables. Peel the carrots, trim the leek using only the white and light green part, cut them and the celery into thin slices. Trim the beans and cut into 3-cm-long (1-in-long) pieces, chop the tomatoes into 1.5-cm (1/2-in) cubes and set aside. Heat a large heavy-based saucepan and sauté the leek, carrots and celery with the oil for 5 minutes on low heat. Cut the potatoes in bite-sized pieces and add them to the saucepan together with 750 ml (3 cups) stock. Raise the heat until the broth is boiling and simmer for 8 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking prepare the pesto: Put the basil, nuts, parmesan, garlic and oil in a blender and blitz until smooth. Add the beans and peas, if fresh, to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, asparagus tips, pasta and petit pois, if using. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender and pasta al dente. Taste, adjust seasoning and add more boiling-hot stock if you find the consistency too thick for your liking. Turn off the heat, add in the spinach and stir until wilted. Transfer the soup into a soup terrine, stir in half the pesto and spoon the rest on top or serve it separately.
*Note that in Italy Vermicelli is thicker than Spaghetti, but in the US it is instead slightly thinner, which is the fine spaghetti intended here. You can replace it with any short soup pasta, type Ditalini, but check cooking time on packet. This is not meant to be a minestrone with two hours of simmering, but a lighter version with just-cooked spring vegetables. Try to find as tender vegetables as possible to reduce cooking time, which helps food retain its nutrients.