Italian Vegetable Soup with Purple Basil Pesto & Herbed Crostini

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” – Edith Sitwell

One of the first recipes that comes to mind at the word “winter” is soup. There’s just something about a hot cup of soup that warms not only the body, but the soul. Winter in Florida is quite mild, compared to my parents’ hometown of Chicago. Regardless, this hearty soup is perfect for any winter day – whether sunny or snowy.

The flavors in this soup are multi-dimensional, and that’s why I love it. You have the citrusy zing of the lemon zest in the pesto, the heartiness of the chickpeas, and the savory “comfort food” flavor from the touch of cream and sherry in the broth.

I hope you enjoy this dish with your friends and loved ones.


Italian Vegetable Soup


2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 med. onion, cut in half & sliced

1 orange bell pepper, roughly diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups chicken stock or bouillon (you may use vegetable stock if you want to make this dish vegetarian)

1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce (I use Contadina brand)

1 can (16 oz) chickpeas, drained & rinsed

1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

1/2 heaping tsp. oregano

1 pinch salt

2 pinch ground nutmeg

1 tbsp. sherry

1 1/2 tbsp. sugar

1 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped

2/3 cup half & half


Heat up the olive oil in a medium sized wok, sauté pan, or frying pan. Oil is ready when it starts to form small bubbles and sizzle slightly. photo 1

Add onion and orange bell peppers. Lower heat. Sauté until onions become translucent and peppers are fork tender. Add minced garlic. Toss to combine.

photo 2

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add tomato sauce and reduce to a simmer. Add in the chickpeas.


Transfer the onion, bell pepper, and garlic mixture from the pan to the pot of stock. Reduce heat, and cover for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables and chickpeas are soft.

Add the cayenne, oregano, salt, nutmeg, sherry, and sugar to soup mixture. Stir to combine.

Add the chopped kale. Adding this element towards the end of the cooking process allows the leaves to have a better texture in the soup.

Lastly, add the half & half. Stir.

Ladle into serving bowls and top with Purple Basil Pesto and grated Romano cheese, if desired.

Purple Basil Pesto

I grow Purple Basil in my herb garden. It has a great, deep, plum-purple hue and is delightfully aromatic. If you don’t have easy access to Purple Basil, the fresh basil leaves sold in most supermarkets will suffice.



1/2 cup kale, rinsed and chopped

1/3 cup fresh purple basil, rinsed and roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest

2 tbsp. olive oil

pinch salt

pinch black pepper


Combine all ingredients in food processor (I use my Magic Bullet). Pulse until ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Herbed Crostini


4 slices gluten-free bread (I prefer Udi’s)

2 tbsp. butter

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon oregano

pinch cayenne pepper


Combine butter and spices. Cut each slice of bread in half diagonally. Spread the butter mixture evenly across all slices. Turn broiler on oven to 500 degrees F. Broil bread halves until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.