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Minestrone Soup with Clams

Ingredients
Serves:
Saffron Pasta Shells
Pinch saffron threads
2 ounce s
small dry pasta shells
extra-virgin olive oil
Pistou Sauce
1/3 cup
extra-virgin olive oil
1/2
clove garlic
pinch salt
1/4 cup
packed fresh basil leaves
Minestrone
3 tablespoon s
extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon
minced garlic
1/2 cup
diced (1/2-inch) yellow squash or zucchini
1/2 cup
diced (1/2-inch) eggplant
1/2 cup
diced (1/2-inch) zucchini
1/2 cup
diced (1/2-inch) celery stalk
1/2 cup
diced (1/2-inch) yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup
diced (1/2-inch) red bell pepper
1/2 cup
diced (1/2-inch) fennel bulb
1/2 cup
diced (1/2-inch) carrot
1 cup
chopped onion
1 cup
tomato concasse (peeled, seeded, and diced fresh tomato)
salt
Freshly ground black pepper
sugar
1 tablespoon
all-purpose flour
1/4 cup
tomato paste
2 us liquid quart s
chicken stock
1 cup
diced (3/4-inch) baking potatoes, such as russets
1
bouquet garni (see "Cooking Tips"), made of 1 bay leaf and 1 sprig each of basil and parsley
2 pound s
Littleneck clams, cleaned and soaked in salted water for 15 minutes, drained
1/2 cup
canned garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, and peeled
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
6
diagonal slices baguette, brushed with olive oil, grilled or broiled, and sliced in half lengthwise
  1. First, make the Saffron Pasta Shells: In a saucepan, bring salted water to a boil with the saffron. Add dry pasta shells and cook until al dente, tender but still chewy, following the manufacturer’s suggested cooking time. Drain and rinse in cold water. Transfer to a bowl and lightly dress and toss with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. 
  2. Next, prepare the Pistou Sauce: In a blender, combine the olive oil, garlic, and salt. Process until the garlic is minced. With the motor running, add the basil leaves and continue to process until pureed. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed. 
  3. Make the Minestrone: In a stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, yellow squash, eggplant, zucchini, celery, bell peppers, fennel, carrots, onion, and tomato concasse and sauté until glossy. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir in the flour and continue to cook until the mixture is golden in color. Stir in the tomato paste, stock, potatoes, and bouquet garni. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. 
  4. Add the clams to the pot, cover, and cook until the clams open, 4 to 5 minutes. Uncover and remove the bouquet garni and any clams that have failed to open. Stir in the garbanzo beans and the Saffron Pasta Shells and simmer until they are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Ladle the soup into 4 soup plates or bowls, drizzle with Pistou Sauce and extra-virgin olive oil, garnish each serving with 3 slices of grilled baguette, and serve immediately.
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About this Recipe

The familiar Italian soup of fresh vegetables, pasta, and beans gets a seafaring slant with the addition of sweet, tender Littleneck clams. Easily prepared Saffron Pasta Shells complement the clams in shape and flavor, and add a brilliant yellow color. A spoonful or two of Pistou Sauce, France's close cousin to basil-garlic pesto, provides a final burst of flavor and aroma when stirred into each bowl at serving time.

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