Kuleto's Minestrone

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
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 1/2 teaspoons chopped basil
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced zucchini
1/2 cup diced broccoli rabe
3/4 cup cooked orzo pasta (from about 1/4 cup uncooked)
1/2 cup cooked white beans
2 1/2 teaspoons chopped parsley
2 to 3 tablespoons basil pesto, divided

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the pancetta, onion, carrot, fennel, celery, garlic, thyme, rosemary and basil; saute until vegetables are lightly softened and mixture is aromatic, for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the diced tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover pan and cook soup base until flavors are married and vegetables are soft, about 45 minutes. You should have about 1 quart soup base (add additional water if needed to bring volume to 1 quart). Taste and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or as desired.

When soup base is almost done, prepare the mushrooms and remaining vegetables. In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat until hot. Stir in mushrooms, the zucchini and broccoli rabe until crisp-tender and lightly colored, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in soup base, the cooked pasta and beans and the chopped parsley; cook until soup is hot. Taste once more and adjust salt and pepper if desired. This makes about 11/2 quarts of soup. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish each with 1/2 tablespoon of the pesto. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

— Recipe adapted by the Los Angeles Times from Kuleto's in San Francisco.


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