April 26th, 2011

Pesto Soup with Gnocchi, Beans & Greens

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Serves 4
Total time: 35 minutes || Active time: 20 minutes

I’m always going on and on about vegan creaminess, so here I go again. Usually creamy texture is brought to us in the form of delicious fatty vehicles like cashews, tahini and avocado. Instead, here is an almost fat-free method that might not pack the decadent punch of a cashew based cream but gets you there all the same.

Cauliflower is pureed with a few other veggies and lots of basil until silky smooth. It’s actually a wonderful soup on its own, but bulked up with a pillowy gnocchi, white beans and wilted greens it becomes a meal unto itself.

I used Rising Moon Gnocchi (it’s not on their site for some reason) but there are lots of vegan gnocchis out there and if you’ve got Vegan With A Vengeance you can even make your own. I mean, you can use whatever cookbook you’d like to make your own, I’m just saying.

And keep this a secret, but the soup base on its own makes a great pasta sauce the next day,  even without the basil. So if you don’t have all of these ingredients on hand right this second, definitely keep the cauliflower base in the back of your mind for the next time you’ve got a few florets impatiently starting back at you.

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small head cauliflower (about a pound), leaves removed, cut into florettes
4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
Big pinch dried thyme
Lots of fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, plus a little extra for garnish

8 oz frozen gnocchi, partially thawed (leave on the counter for 30 minutes or so)
1 15 oz can navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 small bunch swiss chard, stems discarded, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

Optional: I didn’t add them here, but toasted pine nuts would make a great garnish.

Preheat a 4 quart stock pot over medium heat. Saute garlic in olive oil for about a minute, being careful not to let it burn. Add cauliflower, 3 cups of broth (alert! only 3 of the cups! you’ll be adding the last cup in a bit), salt, thyme and several dashes fresh black pepper. Cover pot and bring to a boil, stirring every now and again for about 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Vigorously mix together the final cup of broth and the arrowroot until dissolved. Lower heat a bit so that the soup is at a slow boil. Mix in the broth/arrowroot and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes until slightly thickened. stirring often. Add the basil leaves, and remove from heat. Use a submersion blender to puree until smooth*. Taste for salt and seasoning.

Return to the stove over medium heat and add the gnocchi, cover and let cook for 3 minutes or so. Add the greens and beans and cook until greens are completely wilted and beans are heated through, about 5 more minutes. Be careful as you stir not to crush the gnocchi or beans. Serve garnished with extra basil and pine nuts, if you like.

*If you don’t have a submersion blender (GET ONE!) then use a blender or food processor to puree in batches, being careful to lift the lid once in awhile so that the steam doesn’t build up and explode.

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