Nick's Minestrone

See the RecipeMeredith Heuer

This soup, a longtime fixture on the prix fixe menu at Nick's Italian Cafe in McMinnville, Oregon, is served tableside from a tureen and topped with a generous spoonful of fragrant, freshly made pesto. "The heat," Nick explained, "makes the aroma rise." After the bowls are filled, the vessel is left on the table so that guests can help themselves to more, if they like.

Nick's Minestrone
This soup, on the menu at Nick's Italian Café in McMinnville, Oregon, is served tableside and topped with a generous spoonful of fragrant, freshly made pesto.
Yield: serves 6

FOR THE SOUP

  • 3 carrots, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
  • 12 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • Leaves of 1/4 bunch parsley
  • 12 lb. lean salt pork
  • 1 (14 1/2-oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 12 cup tomato paste
  • 14 cup beef stock base
  • 14 cup dried basil
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 lb. string beans, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 14 shelled fresh or frozen peas
  • Salt

FOR THE PESTO

  • Leaves of 1/2 bunch basil
  • Leaves of 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 14 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 14 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
  • 1 tsp. pine nuts
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. For the soup: Coarsely chop 1 of the carrots and put into a food processor. Add onions, celery, peppers, and garlic, pulse until vegetables are finely chopped, then transfer to a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add parsley, salt pork, and 3 quarts water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 6 hours.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer salt pork to a food processor, then process until fat liquefies and meat turns into a paste, about 30 seconds. Pass salt pork through a sieve back into pot, using a rubber spatula to press as much paste through the sieve as possible. Skim off and discard fat from broth. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock base, basil, and oregano to pot. Season to taste with 1 tsp. pepper and simmer over medium-low heat, covered, for 2 hours.
  3. Add 4 cups water to pot, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, thinly slice remaining carrots crosswise, then add to pot. Add green beans and peas, reduce heat to medium, and simmer soup, partially covered, until carrots, beans, and peas are soft, about 30 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. For the pesto: Put basil, parsley, parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino romano, pine nuts, and oil into a food processor and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Put soup into a warm tureen, if you like, and spoon pesto into soup. Serve soup in warm bowls garnished with some freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano and pecorino romano, if you like.