Minestrone Genovese

1 ounce dried porcini
1/4 pound swiss chard, stems removed
1/4 pound spinach, stems removed
2 small zucchini, diced
2 medium white potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Japanese eggplants, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups pasta
2 cups cooked white beans
2 tablespoons Pesto
freshly ground black pepper
2 tightly packed cups stemless fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
coarse salt
1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Soak porcini in 2 cups warm water until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove porcini, rinse, chop and set aside. Pour porcini water through a coffee filter and reserve. Chop chard and spinach leaves.

Bring porcini water and 6 cups salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add porcini, chard, spinach, zucchini, potatoes, eggplant and oil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add pasta to soup. Cook pasta for about 10 minutes, add beans and cook 5 minutes longer. Stir in pesto and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or, in the Genovese tradition, at room temperature. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you like.

Crush basil, pine nuts, garlic and a large pinch of salt into a fine paste with mortar and pestle. Drizzle in oil, stirring constantly, then stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano. Put plastic wrap directly on surface of pesto, then set aside. If using a food processor, put pine nuts, garlic and salt into the bowl of the food processor fitted with a metal blade and blend to a paste. Add basil, drizzle in oil and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serves 6-8

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