White bean and leek soup with kale pesto

Serves: 4 - Time:

White bean and leek soup with kale pesto

I prefer to soak dried beans overnight but there is always the option of tinned cannellini beans. If you have a pressure cooker you don’t even need to soak the beans. The other day I bought an Instant Pot (more of which in the coming posts) which is marvellous for cooking pulses in next to no time. This soup has a comfortingly creamy blandness (and I mean that in a good way) that partners the punchy kale pesto perfectly. Try and buy cavolo nero –or black kale- and remove the tough, fibrous spine that runs down the centre of each leaf.


  • 250g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight (or 3 tins, drained)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
  • 1 eschalion shallot, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 900ml vegetable stock
  • For the kale salsa
  • 75g cavolo nero leaves (see intro)
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 45g grated pecorino
  • 20g basil leaves
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • 60ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 
White bean and leek soup with kale pesto


  1. Drain the cannellini beans and put them in a saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes then turn the heat down and simmer for about 1 hour or until the beans are tender. Alternatively cook the beans in a pressure cooker for 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the leeks, shallot and celery along with a pinch of salt. Stir over a low heat for 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the cooked beans and stock. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool the soup for 15 minutes then blend in a liquidiser or with a stick blender. Taste and season with plenty of salt and ground black pepper.
  3. For the kale pesto, bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the kale and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the kale and refresh in cold water. Drain again and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
  4. Put the kale in the small bowl of a food processor and add the pine nuts, pecorino, basil, garlic, most of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Blend to a coarse paste. With the motor running, drizzle in the remaining olive oil. Taste and season again if necessary. Scrape the pesto into a serving bowl. To serve, warm the soup, pour into bowls and add a good tablespoon of pesto into each one. Drizzle over a little extra oil.
White bean and leek soup with kale pesto