Thursday, November 26, 2015

Velvety carrot soup with carrot-top pesto

The weather has suddenly turned and it finally feels like winter. The mild autumn lasted too long for my liking and I’ve been anticipating the cold temperatures eagerly, not least because I want to start digging into soups, stews and all types of heartwarming dishes.

My body craves soups at the moment; I long to feel their warmth travel down to my tummy and make me smile with contentment with each spoonful. I plan on making lots and lots of soups in the coming months. A traditional Greek meat soup is in order (one of S’s favorites), fish soup (possibly my favorite soup in the whole wide world) and of course vegetable soups. Those are the easiest and quickest soups to make, and they indeed tend to feature on our dinner table regularly during the colder months of the year.

Vegetable soups are the chocolate chip cookie of the soup world; you may have found the recipe that you absolutely love and swear by, but you just can’t resist the temptation to try new ones. I hope this happens to all of you with this soup —a velvety carrot soup with a full-flavored carrot-top pesto— and you make it as soon as you read this.

I love utilizing the whole vegetable, root to leaf, wasting nothing, and that’s exactly what I did in this dish. I used the carrots for the soup, the carrot-tops for the pesto, and paired them with the best ingredients to bring ultimate pleasure to the palate. You’ll have trouble to believe that this soup doesn’t contain any cream, milk or butter as it’s so incredibly smooth and rich in flavor and texture, but it doesn’t. It is simple and made with only a few ingredients; the right ones.

This warming, cozy soup has a delicate flavor with the natural sweetness of the carrot coming through, whereas its smooth texture is, for me, just right; not too thick (I have a huge issue with very thick soups that verge on being a purée), very creamy, even if it lacks any kind of dairy fat, and super light yet filling. The carrot-top pesto with its grassy, earthy, nutty and umami flavors livens and freshens up the soup, while adding a pleasant sharpness and zing.

If it’s getting cold now in your part of the world, dear reader, make this and enjoy it with some good, crusty bread and the best ingredient of them all, good company.

P.S. The Greek VIMA Gourmet Food Blog Awards competition is still running. Apart from your votes, there’s a judges panel that will judge specific recipes submitted for the competition using sponsors’ ingredients. One of its sponsors is #Knorr and they send me maaaany stock pots and cubes to feature in my recipes for the competition. I have loved using them. So, this soup is submitted for one of the categories I’m nominated in, “Best Cooking Blog”. If you wish, you can still vote for me here for Best Cooking Blog, here for Best Sweet Treats and here for Best Food Photography & Styling by clicking the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category. You will make me very happy if you do. Thank you very much for your support!!

Velvety carrot soup with carrot-top pesto

If you can’t find carrots with their tops attached, substitute with flat-leaf parsley for the pesto. The flavor won’t be the same but it’s the closest one there is.
The thing when getting carrots with tops is that you end up with a loooot of carrot tops. You need 1 cup of leaves for the pesto so use the rest in soups, stocks, or in salads.

The carrots I used in this recipe are the small ones. If you can’t find them, use large carrots. They will, however, need a bit more time to cook.

Add a few drops of lemon juice to the soup before eating it. The lemon balances the sweetness and adds another level of flavor with its acidity. Especially when it comes to vegetable soups, lemon is your friend, and in this case, even though the pesto adds sharpness (garlic), oumami flavor (parmesan), earthiness (toasted pine nuts), the soup still needs a bit of acidity in the form of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Use any leftover pesto tossed with pasta, in sandwiches, to smear on steaks, you name it.

Yield: 4 as a main / 6 as a starter


for the soup
2½ Tbsp (40 ml) olive oil
1 onion (about 120 g), roughly chopped
A large bunch of carrots with tops (about 900 g in total) – you will need 700 g peeled and sliced carrots (2cm-thick)
1 vegetable stock pot (I used Knorr)
900 ml hot water
Freshly ground white pepper

for the pesto
1 cup (about 30 g) carrot tops, chopped
3 Tbsp (30 g) pine nuts
1 garlic clove
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil
¼ cup (12 g) finely grated Parmesan
Freshly ground white pepper

Lemon, for serving

Special equipment: immersion or regular blender for the soup, small food processor for the pesto


for the soup
In a medium-large soup pot, add the olive oil and place over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and season with a little salt. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn, for about 8 minutes.
Add the sliced carrots to the pot together with the Knorr stock pot, the hot water and a little freshly ground white pepper. Turn heat up to high and bring to the boil. Put on the lid slightly ajar, turn heat down to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are very tender, for 20-25 minutes.

Once the soup is ready, remove from the heat and then, if you’re using an immersion blender, blend the carrots in the pan until smooth and creamy. If you have a regular blender, transfer the carrots little by little to it and blend until you have a smooth and creamy soup. Return soup to the pan.
Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

for the pesto
While the soup is simmering, prepare the pesto.

To toast the pine nuts, add them to a dry, small pan and place over medium heat. Toast them, stirring regularly so they don’t burn, until they become fragrant. Empty them immediately onto a plate and let them cool.

In a small food processor, add the garlic and toasted pine nuts and process until a coarse paste forms. Add the carrots tops and process until you have a coarse mixture. Add the olive oil and pulse until combined and then add the parmesan and pulse until just combined and you have a rough-textured pesto. Add some white pepper, taste and add salt if you think it needs it. Pulse for 2 seconds and you’re done.

Note: If you don’t use the pesto immediately, you can keep it in the fridge, inside a bowl covered with plastic wrap, for up to 5 days. Mix well with a spoon before use.

serve the soup
Serve the soup while hot in soup bowls and top with a couple teaspoons of pesto (more or less according to your taste). Squeeze some lemon on top and enjoy!


  1. I love your analogy of veggie soup and chocolate chip cookie recipes! At first I was confused, but the second sentence made it all clear! And it is so true...

    I made my first carrot-top pesto last year and loved it. It made a great topping for hors d'œuvres, but I never thought of it with soup! I will try this soup this winter! Thanks, Magda!

    1. Thanks David! I used the pesto today smeared on slices of toasted spelt and topped with poached eggs. It was delicious!

  2. I love that you used the carrot tops for pesto!