Winter Minestrone with Sausage, Kale, and Basil Pistou
We’re having a January cold spell, and right now the temperature outside is a whopping 6 degrees. Which means my family wants nothing but soup for dinner. One of our all-time favorites is this winter minestrone with sausage, kale, and basil pistou. It’s packed with bold flavor and healthy veggies.
This red, green and white soup is a Christmas Eve tradition in our family, so sometimes I call it “Christmas minestrone.” We usually don’t have a heavy dinner Christmas Eve, because we’ve already stuffed ourselves at an annual family party during the day. After celebrating with a million and one relatives, we go home, make some minestrone, and play board games until it’s time to hang our stockings.
I usually make this sausage and kale minestrone with my Instant Pot programmable pressure cooker. Making soup is the thing I use the Instant Pot for most often. It has an automated soup setting that makes things super easy. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can make this soup on the stovetop.
Start your sausage and kale minestrone by prepping the onion, carrots, kale, potatoes and garlic:
Have all the ingredients ready to go, because you will be moving quickly for the first 10 minutes or so. Start by heating some olive oil, either in a heavy soup pot on the stovetop, or using the sauté setting of the pressure cooker. Add hot Italian sausage and diced onion to the olive oil, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Next, add some pressed garlic, kosher salt, dried Italian seasoning and diced carrots, and sauté for five minutes more.
Add canned petite diced tomatoes, chicken broth, baby red potatoes, kale, and bay leaves to the pot, and stir to blend. If using a programmable pressure cooker, secure the lid and use the automatic soup setting. If cooking on the stovetop, bring the soup to a low boil and cook for 30-40 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, drain and rinse a can of white beans. Boil some small pasta, such as baby shells or ditalini, in a separate pot. When adding pasta to soup, I usually cook it separately, to avoid having it get too soggy. Cook the pasta al dente, because it will get softer after you add it to the soup.
The other thing you can do while the soup is cooking is make the basil pistou, minestrone’s flavor secret weapon. Basil pistou adds a burst of summer freshness to your winter minestrone. Pistou is basically a French version of the more familiar Italian pesto. It’s made from basil, olive oil, garlic and salt, and it may or may not contain cheese. Unlike traditional pesto, pistou doesn’t contain pine nuts.
Make the pistou by blending basil leaves, olive oil, grated Parmesan, red wine vinegar, garlic, kosher salt and black pepper, using a food processor or mortar and pestle.
If you don’t have time to make basil pistou, you can use prepared pesto, or skip the pistou altogether. It’s optional. If you aren’t planning to use pistou or pesto, remember to add a teaspoon of dried basil to the soup with the Italian seasoning.
Once the soup has finished simmering, add the cooked pasta and beans. Remove the bay leaves. Ladle the soup into serving bowls, and top each serving with a spoonful of pistou.
We usually serve this soup with crusty bread or breadsticks. It goes great with our Easy Focaccia Bread or Rustic Spanish Bread. Winter pesto with sausage, kale, and basil pistou is one of our family’s favorite soups, and I’m sure your family will love it too!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 medium onion, diced fine
- 1 clove garlic, pressed
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 12 baby red potatoes, quartered
- 1 medium bunch kale, stems removed and chopped or torn into one-inch pieces (about 6 cups chopped kale leaves)
- 2 small (14.5 oz.) cans petite diced tomatoes, with liquid
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 oz. small pasta, such as ditalini or baby shells
- 1 can (14.5 oz.) white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan
- ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (optional)
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a heavy soup pot over medium high heat, or using the sauté function of an electric pressure cooker. Sauté the Italian sausage and onion together for about 5 minutes, breaking up the sausage into small pieces.
- Add 1 clove pressed garlic, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and carrots, and continue to sauté another 5 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, kale, tomatoes, chicken broth and bay leaves, and stir to blend. Simmer on the stovetop for 30-40 minutes, or if using an electric pressure cooker, select the automatic soup function.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a separate pot, following the package instructions for al dente.
- Prepare the pistou by blending the basil leaves, 2 cloves pressed garlic, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, grated Parmesan, vinegar, kosher salt and black pepper, using a food processor or mortar and pestle.
- If making the soup on the stovetop, add the cooked pasta and beans at the end of the cooking time. If using the pressure cooker, release the pressure at the end of the soup cycle, then add the pasta and beans. Return the soup to a simmer for 2-3 minutes to heat everything through. Remove the bay leaves.
- Ladle the soup into serving bowls, and top each serving with a spoonful of pistou.
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