Zucchini and Lettuce Soup With Pesto Recipe

Pesto is the not-so-secret flavor bomb in this soup. J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Rice thickens the soup without muting its flavor.
  • Pesto adds a big jolt of more flavor just before serving.

After coming home to a late-summer glut of garden produce, with a container full of pesto and a pile of zucchini and lettuce at my disposal, I did the only reasonable thing and put them all together. The result is this creamy, bright summer soup, packed with flavor from a dollop of pesto stirred into it just before serving.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 40 mins
Serves: 6 to 8 servings

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  • 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 6 ounces; 170g)
  • 2 medium stalks celery, chopped (about 4 ounces; 130g)
  • 1 large carrot, chopped (about 4 ounces; 130g)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (about 3g) whole coriander seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon (about 2g) fennel seed
  • 1/4 cup dry rice (about 1 1/2 ounces; 50g)
  • 1 pound zucchini, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 large zucchini; 450g)
  • 6 ounces lettuce or spinach, washed (about 6 cups packed leaves)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves (1/4 ounce; about 7g)
  • 1 teaspoon (about 3g) fresh lemon zest
  • To Serve:
  • 1 recipe pesto


  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add coriander, fennel seed, and rice and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add zucchini and stir to combine. Add lettuce, a handful at a time, stirring until wilted, until all the lettuce is incorporated.

  2. Add bay leaves and heavy cream, then add enough water to cover all of the vegetables (about 2 quarts/1.9L). Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in basil and lemon zest.

  3. Working in batches, transfer soup to the jar of a blender. Start blender on low speed and gradually increase to high. Continue blending until completely smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Pour into a clean pot and repeat with remaining soup. Season soup to taste with more salt and pepper as necessary.

  4. Serve soup with a generous dollop of pesto stirred into each bowl.

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