Dinner tonight is a request from a reader, from one of our recent Culinary SOS columns. Elizabeth Reers of La Jolla writes:
“I was at Kuleto’s in San Francisco recently, and we had the best minestrone soup. It was fabulous. I have called and emailed, and nothing. Can you please obtain the soup recipe? Thanks for your help.”
Rich, hearty and amazingly flavorful, this is one great soup. Kuleto’s minestrone combines a wealth of beans, pasta and vegetables in a fresh herb-scented broth, and the soup is finished with a dollop of basil pesto. Perfect on its own as a meal, it comes together in just over an hour.
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
Note: Adapted from Kuleto’s in San Francisco. Basil pesto is available at most major markets.
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 ounces diced pancetta
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
2 tablespoons finely diced fennel bulb
1/3 cup finely diced celery
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic, from about 1 clove
1½ teaspoons chopped thyme
3/4 teaspoon chopped rosemary
2½ teaspoons chopped basil
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and white pepper
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced zucchini
1/2 cup diced broccoli rabe
3/4 cup cooked orzo pasta (from about ¼ cup uncooked)
1/2 cup cooked white beans
2½ teaspoons chopped parsley
2 to 3 tablespoons basil pesto, divided
1. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the pancetta, onion, carrot, fennel, celery, garlic, thyme, rosemary and basil, and sauté until the vegetables are lightly softened and the mixture is aromatic, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in the diced tomatoes and broth, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover the pan, and cook the soup base until the flavors are married and the vegetables are soft, about 45 minutes. You should have about 1 quart soup base (add additional water if needed to bring the volume to 1 quart). Taste and season with one-half teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper, or as desired.
3. When the soup base is almost done, prepare the mushrooms and the rest of the vegetables: In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot. Stir in the mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli rabe until crisp-tender and lightly colored, 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Stir in the soup base, the cooked pasta and beans, and the chopped parsley, and cook until the soup is hot. Taste once more and adjust the salt and pepper if desired. This makes about 1½ quarts of soup. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each with one-half tablespoon of pesto.
Each of 6 servings: 235 calories; 7 grams protein; 19 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 15 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 4 grams sugar; 796 mg sodium.