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 Instant Pot minestrone with sausage, kale, and pesto topping. 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.
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 Instant Pot 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, using the sauté setting of the pressure cooker. Alternatively, you can use a heavy pot on the stovetop. 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, dried basil and diced carrots, and sauté for five minutes more.
Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, baby red potatoes, kale, and bay leaves to the pot, and stir to blend.
Place the lid on the pressure cooker and set the valve to “seal.” Press the “soup” button, then press the “adjust” button until you have selected the “less” setting, This will cook the soup at medium high pressure for 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can cook the soup at high pressure for 15 minutes using the “manual” 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 pesto topping, the “secret sauce” that adds a burst of fresh flavor to this soup. Technically, this sauce is a basil pistou, and not pesto. 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.
If you want to use prepared pesto, by all means go for it. I like to make the pistou topping fresh, but it’s not completely necessary. You can also skip the pesto or pistou, because the soup has a lot of flavor on its own.
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.
Once the pressure cooker has come to the end of its cycle, let the pressure reduce for ten minutes. Carefully move the valve to “venting,” and release the remaining pressure. Remove the lid. 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 or pesto topping.
We usually serve this soup with crusty bread or breadsticks. It goes great with our Easy Focaccia Bread or Rustic Spanish Bread. Instant Pot minestrone with sausage, kale, and pesto topping is one of our family’s favorite soups, and I’m sure your family will love it too!
Winter Minestrone with Sausage, Kale, and Pesto Topping
For the soup:
- 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
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 carrots peeled and diced
- 12 baby red potatoes quartered (optional)
- 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
For the pesto topping (a.k.a. pistou):
- 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.
- Place the lid on the pressure cooker and set the valve to “seal.” Press the “soup” button, then press the “adjust” button to select the “less” setting, This will cook the soup at medium high pressure for 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can cook the soup at high pressure for 15 minutes using the “manual” setting.
- If cooking on the stovetop, bring the soup to a low boil and cook for 30-40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a separate pot, following the package instructions for al dente. Drain and rinse the beans.
- 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.
- After the pressure cooking cycle is completed, wait 10 minutes for natural pressure release. Carefully move the valve to "venting" to release remaining pressure.
- Remove the lid from the pressure cooker and remove the bay leaves. Stir in the cooked pasta and beans.
- If cooking on the stovetop, stir in the pasta and beans at the end of the cooking time.
- Ladle the soup into serving bowls, and top each serving with a spoonful of pistou.