Serious Eats: Recipes

Dinner Tonight: Simple White Bean and Pesto Soup

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Barbara Kafka never fails. Her recipes may be confusing—combining odd ingredients with peculiar cooking methods—but I've never completed a recipe of hers that didn't ultimately awe me. She has a singular focus on flavor above all else, so while things might not always look right on paper, they come out right in the bowl.

That's especially true for this recipe from Soup: A Way of Life, where there are so few ingredients, you'll wonder whether it will hold together at all. Yet, after the five minutes it takes to cook, you'll be greeted by a bowl of warming and fragrant soup, perfumed with basil and with surprising amount of depth.

I have only one piece of advice: use good chicken stock. This recipe lives or dies by it. So, I know I'm usually really relaxed about canned chicken stock, and admittedly use it often, but this is the time to use the real thing. Luckily I had a batch in the freezer ready to go.

You can actually simplify this recipe even more if you have some pre-made pesto, though it is spectacularly easy to whip up a batch at home. Kafka actually calls for eliminating the pine nuts and Parmesan from the pesto, because she feels like it competes with the other flavors. Like a lot of things about this soup, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But it works.

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