1 tablespoon olive oil
4 rashers pancetta or 50g guanciale, chopped (optional)
25g butter
1 leek, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1.5 litres chicken stock
a sprig of mint
⅓ cup (approx 75g) dried pasta (I used cinesi rigate)
2 cups frozen peas
50g baby spinach
mint & almond pesto
freshly grated parmesan, to serve
1 small clove garlic
¼ cup skin-on roasted almonds
1 handful mint leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

The Italians really know how to draw the best out of basic ingredients and spring vegetable soups such as this are always delightful. I like less pasta in this and tend to use smaller shapes. Orzo, ditalini or fregola would all work well. Feel free to make this more substantial and add more pasta if you wish. If you have a parmesan rind or pancetta with rind then add it with the broth to add a deeper flavour. If you happen to have fresh peas, make a stock with the podded shells.


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1.Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the pancetta if using and fry for a few minutes until browned.
2.Add the butter, leek and celery and season with salt.
3.Fry until soft, approximately 10 minutes, then add the stock and mint sprig and simmer for 15 minutes.
4.Remove and discard the mint, add the pasta and cook according to the packet directions, adding the peas in the final 3 minutes of the pasta cooking time.
5.Add the baby spinach in the last minute.
6.Serve in bowls with a dollop of the mint and almond pesto, if using, and some freshly grated parmesan.
8.In a small food processor, blitz the garlic and almonds to a coarse crumb.
9.Add the mint and lemon juice and blitz to a paste.
10.Stir through the olive oil, loosen with a little water if necessary. Season to taste.
12.Omit the pancetta, use vegetable stock and use a vegetarian parmesan or other hard cheese.
14.Omit the pancetta, use vegetable stock and use a vegan hard cheese or add a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.
15.Replace the butter with vegan butter or olive oil.

Recipes & food styling Ginny Grant / Photography Aaron McLean / Styling Jess Hemmings