Nick’s Italian Cafe Minestrone Soup

October 26, 2009 at 1:05 am | Posted in Soup | 29 Comments


Nick’s Italian Cafe is just about my favorite restaurant on earth. Just something about good times, good food with good friends make for good memories.  Nick’s Italian Cafe has been feeding Oregon wine country since 1977 and serves up entrees that compliment the state’s signature wines of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.   You can check out the menu by clicking HERE

Saveur Magazine did an article on Nick’s a few years ago.  When we were there last summer I took this photo of the article proudly framed and displayed on the wall.


I love this quote from the owner, Nick Peirano, who thinks that simple connections are at the center of everything. “Cooking is a craft, not an art,” he says. “It’s fuel for the body and, hopefully, for the spirit. It’s like the difference between pottery and fine art. Food should always think of itself as pottery. Architectural food drives me nuts. Food has to recognize it’s serving a basic need.”

Since that article was printed Nick’s daughter, who has been in culinary training in San Francisco, has now taken over the kitchen.  I think she’s gradually sneaking in a little bit of that art 😉

Included in this article was a reprint of Nick’s signature Minestrone Soup.  I made this soup this weekend and I must say, it’s delicious.  Remember when I said I have an arsenal of soups, some easy and some extravaganza’s???  Well this falls into the extravaganza category and well worth it.


Coarse cut vegetables and place in a food processor and pulse until chopped.  I messed up and put all three carrots in at the first.  There should only be one, adding two later. 


 Place chopped vegetables, parsley and salt pork in a large soup pot.  Look at those fresh vibrant colors.


Serve the soup with fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  Yum.

Here’s the full recipe:

This soup, a longtime fixture on the prix fixe menu at Nick’s Italian Café 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.

3 carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and
coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded,
and coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
Leaves of 1/4 bunch parsley
1/2 lb lean salt pork
1 14 1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup beef stock base
1/4 cup dried basil
1 Tbs dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb string beans, trimmed and
cut into 1″ pieces
1 1/4 cups shelled fresh or frozen peas
Leaves of 1/2 bunch basil
Leaves of 1/2 bunch parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
1 tsp pine nuts
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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.

Servings: 6

Souper Sundays2



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  1. great looking soup. Yeah about the carrots, but I love carrots…just add a couple more at the end anyway for me. This is a great post, with a wonderful soup. And love the cheese and pine nuts at the end, really amazing

    • Thanks for stopping by. The extra two carrots didn’t seem to hurt anything. This soup was delicious.

  2. Nick’s sounds like a great place. The soup also sounds like a great dish, but I have a weird question for you. How do you clean your microplanes? I hate sponges because of their bacterial farm qualities and use scrub brushes. But microplanes tend to grab the heck out of the bristles. When I shred cheese I find myself working for 10 minutes with hot hot water and a toothpick trying to get all the pieces off. There must be an easier way?

    • I only use it for grating hard cheeses. It works so good. I just use soap/a brush/and really hot water and give it a quick brush. And yes, it does damage the brush a tad. Then rinse the heck out of it. I agree, I don’t use sponges at all.

  3. I agree that cooking is a craft and not an art. Turning it into an art, I think, takes the soul out of cooking. I’d much rather have something that tastes amazing than looks like it belongs in a museum.

    @ Chris: I think it really depends on your microplane. I have the one Lee Anne uses above, and I rarely use it for cheese because it’s too fine for me. I just use a fine grater instead. I would suggest not submersing it until you’ve brushed it off really well first. I wouldn’t use a microplane for soft cheeses, either – it’s not worth the hassle. Parmesan should brush off pretty well. I use my microplane mainly for zest, nutmeg, and ginger, and in those cases, I just rinse it off really well.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I only use my microplane for hard cheeses. I’ve never used it for Ginger, what a great idea.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Nick Peirano sounds like a guy I’d like to sit down and have a cup of coffee with while chatting about food and cooking. As for the recipe, I do love me a good minestrone. The ingredient list looks long, but It doesn’t look complicated to make. I’ll put it on my list!

    • It’s a little ornery to make. An 8 plus hour cook time. I made this over a two day period. It’s very good. Especially stirring in that pesto.

  5. I love colourful soups like this-they’re so appealing not to mention healthy!

    • Absolutely! I love a good soup. Thanks for stopping by

  6. If there was not already a ‘Soup Nazi’ in NYC, I would have to use the title, because I am with you… I love soup, oh and BTW I threw more greens into the soup for eating…photo presentation would not have been pretty, lol!

    • More greens are always a good thing, who cares about the photo!

      Thanks Elizabeth

  7. Being from Montana, I’m always looking for a good soup recipe so I’m thrilled that you’re going to share some of yours!! I love this recipe – I can almost smell the basil-y goodness. Great post! Another thing I use the microplane for is fresh garlic when you need all the flavor of the clove. To clean mine, I use a brush and don’t really have much trouble – although I’m starting to wear my reading glasses to cook and I may have to retract that. 😛

    • Ah…I’ve never used it for garlic. Good idea. LOL about the glasses

      Thanks for stopping by Vic

  8. I’m a first-hand witness, this soup rocks. Well, at least it does when it’s made by Lea Ann. The fresh pesto “garnish”… It is the icing on the cake.

    • Thanks for stopping by Dan. I think it’s our duty to return to Oregon wine country and test Nick’s Minestrone, just to make sure I made it right!

  9. Many ingredients! I’m sure it’s worth it..

    • Ya know BD, I’m thinking this soup is best enjoyed sitting in Nick’s Italian Café with a cocktail and their fabulous staff fawning over you.

      As always, thanks for stopping by BD

  10. I’ve never made this soup, but it looks great, especially the microplne’d cheese 🙂

    • I’ve made minestrone, but it had pasta, beans, vegetables and was a quick recipe. I have a feeling this is more authentic.

      Thanks for stopping by Olga

      Lea Ann

  11. Looks delish! I love that photo with all the shreddy cheesy goodness!

    • Ya just can’t beat shredded cheese. Thanks for stopping by Natashya

  12. I love minestrone and adding a ton of grated cheese makes it even better. Yum!

  13. Nick’s sounds so delicious! If I am ever in Oregon, that is the first place that I will be headed to. Straight from the airport. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. Just go to Nick’s.

    That soup is to die for! I love the pesto in it. Perfect on a chilly fall day.

    • You’re a smart woman!

      Thanks for stopping by Joanne

  14. This is one fantastic looking soup. if Nick’s was in my neighborhood, I would certianly be one of their regulars!

    • I totally agree. Cathy over at Noble Pig lives in McMinnville, if I were her I’d be there all the time. They also have a back room where smaller and more casual dinners are served.

      Thanks for stopping by Katherine

  15. This sounds most delicious. I need a good go to minestrone. Ill have to try this.

  16. A beautiful soup and I love that grated cheese on top. Thanks for sending it to Souper Sundays

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