Cauliflower-Parsnip Soup with Spring Pesto

April 26th, 2010 at 4:04 pm
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Two weekends ago my farmers’ market reopened for the spring and summer. After browsing the booths on a Saturday morning amidst the rain and wind, I made a pot of this warming soup for supper that evening with the parsnips and potatoes I picked up.

For a flavorful garnish, I whipped up some pesto to dollop atop each bowl of soup. Pesto aficionados may not like me for this post, because the pesto recipe I’m posting here is parmesan-less and garlic-less. I love a good basil-parm-garlic pesto, but I didn’t want the sharp flavor of garlic to overpower the earthiness of the parsnips in the soup. I left out the parmesan out of necessity…there was none in my fridge! The flavor does not suffer at all, though, because toasted almonds lend a wonderful nuttiness to the pesto instead. In lieu of basil, I used a combination of farmers’ market arugula—which is slightly bitter—and fresh spinach from my backyard, which is sweet and buttery. The result was incredible.

I prefer a thicker soup more like the consistency of thin applesauce than thick broth. If you enjoy a thinner soup, feel free to stir in additional water to acheive the desired texture. The same goes with the pesto. I like it to be almost scoopable versus runny, so I ere on the side of less olive oil than more. Change this up to your tastes.

Cauliflower-Parsnip Soup with Spring Pesto - Serves 4

2 tbs. olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 small head cauliflower, chopped into big florets

1 medium red potato, peeled and chopped

4-5 small parsnips, peeled and chopped*

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tbs. fresh thyme, chopped

4 1/2 – 5 cups water

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

1-2 tbs. honey

Spring Pesto, for garnish (recipe follows)

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add onion and cauliflower. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is browning in spots–about 8-10 minutes. Add potato, parsnips, garlic, and thyme; cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the water, increase heat to high, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until vegetables are tender–about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in honey. Using a handheld immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (If you must use a regular blender, that’s okay. Just puree the soup in small batches and do so carefully so that the hot liquid does not splatter you. Return soup to hot pot when pureed.) Taste the soup and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve the soup in bowls topped with a spoonful of the spring pesto to mix in as you eat it.

*Note: if the parsnips are large, they may have a tough core running through their centers. If this is the case, remove the core with a sharp knife: cut parnips in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half lengthwise so you have four long quarters. Cut into the quarters on an angle to remove the core.


Spring Pesto

1 cup packed spinach

1 cup packed arugula

Handful (about 1/3 cup) sliced almonds, toasted

Juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 2-3 tbs. juice)

Pinch of sea salt and black pepper

Olive oil (amount will vary depending on desired consistency)

Combine greens and almonds in food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add lemon juice and zest, sea salt, and black pepper. With machine running, stream in olive oil through the feed tube until you reach the desired consistency of your pesto. More olive oil=runnier pesto. Less olive oil=thicker pesto.


By the way, I hope you’re liking the look of the new blog. So far, so good on the technical side of things. I haven’t had too many bugs to work out yet…let’s hope it stays that way!

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.



  1. Non-traditional pesto is just fine by me — in fact, even in Italy there are all sorts of variations on the pesto theme!

    Love the idea of adding the pesto to the soup… great trick for adding a little bit of punch. And I’ll bet the lemon adds a nice brightness to this seasonal fare!

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