Summer Minestrone with Fresh Basil

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
Salt
4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
3/4 pound zucchini, diced
A bouquet garni consisting of 1 Parmesan rind, 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs parsley and 3 sprigs thyme, tied together with kitchen string or bundled into a piece of cheesecloth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
6 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup soup pasta, such as elbow macaroni or broken spaghetti, or 3/4 cup penne
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves, or 1/2 cup pistou
Freshly grated Parmesan for garnish


Heat the olive oil to medium-low range in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring about three minutes until vegetables begin to soften, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, stirring often, until tender, about five more minutes. Add the garlic, stir together for about a minute, then mix in the tomatoes. Keep stirring until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in two quarts water, the turnip, zucchini and the bouquet garni, and bring to a simmer. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in the canned beans. Taste and adjust salt. Remove the bouquet garni.

While the soup is simmering, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the green beans. Boil five minutes, until tender but still bright green. Transfer to a bowl of ice water, allow to cool, and drain. Retain the cooking water in case you want to thin the soup.

Add the pasta to the soup and simmer another 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked al dente. Stir the cooked green beans into the soup. Grind in pepper, and adjust seasonings. Soup should be savory and rich-tasting.

Stir in the basil or pistou, or place a spoonful of pistou in each bowl and stir in. Serve in wide soup bowls, with a sprinkling of Parmesan over the top.
You can finish this hearty summer soup with slivered fresh basil or with pistou, the Proven?al version of pesto. (It?s pesto without the pine nuts.) A Parmesan rind, simmered in the soup and then removed, provides great depth of flavor without additional fat. On a hot summer day in Italy, the soup might be served at room temperature or just barely warm.