In some areas of Tuscany, ham fat and bacon rind are added to the vegetables.
Preparation: 1 hour
Total time from start to finish: 2 hours and 40 minutes
serves 8 to 10 people
I prepared this delicious, homey soup for the most recent Culture and Cuisine Club. In my version I used 3 cups of dried cannelini beans. I soaked them overnight, adding water once to cover them. The next day I drained the water and picked through the beans. I covered them with cold water, brought them to a boil, reduced the heat and cooked them for 40 minutes.
3 cups dried cannelini beans soaked overnight for at least 12 hours
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 medium size leek
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard leaves
8 ounces red cabbage
1 bunch cavolo nero, a speciality item
1/3 cup celery, cut into 1/4″ dice
1/3 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
6 ounces (3/4 cup) zucchini, cut into 1/2″ dice
1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, coarsely chopped
8 ounces white boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
Freshly ground black pepper
A slice of good crusty bread for each serving (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
This version is slightly different from mine, in a good way. My soup did not have enough liquid, and I also was missing some flavors, like tomato and chicken broth.
1. Put the chopped onion and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 6 to 8-quart heavy bottomed soup pot and place over medium high heat. Sauté until the onion turns to a light golden color, about 5 minutes.
2. While the onion is sautéing, trim the leek by cutting away the root end and removing the tough green tops of the leaves. Cut the leek in half lengthwise and then across into 1/2″ pieces. Soak the pieces of leek in cold water to loosen any dirt. When the onion is ready, add the leek and turn the heat down to medium low.
3. Add each of the following vegetables as you prepare them, periodically stirring the contents of the pot.
Swiss chard: cut off the root end and shred it finely.
Cavolo nero: remove the stalks. Wash the leaves in cold water and chop them very coarsely.
Red cabbage: cut off the root and finely shred.
Celery: peel the back of the stalk to remove the tough strings, rinse under cold water and dice.
Carrot: peel and dice.
Zucchini: scrub under cold water and dice.
Canned tomatoes: chop coarsely or simply break them up with your hand.
Potatoes: peel and cut into 1/2″ dice. Wash them by placing them in a bowl of cold water as you cut them.
Add the bacon rind and saute with the veggies for 10 minutes or so.
4. When you have finished adding all the vegetables season generously with salt and pepper. Separate and puree about half the cooked beans with an immersion blender. Add the puree, the whole cooked beans, and the reserved cooking liquid to the pot with the veggies. Pour in the 5 cups of water or chicken stock, cover the pot, raise the heat and, when the soup comes to a boil turn the heat down so that it cooks at a gentle simmer. Cook for at least 2 hours checking it about every 30 minutes to stir. The soup is done when the vegetables are very tender, almost creamy, and the beans are soft. There is no such thing as al dente beans!
5. When you are ready to serve the soup, toast or grill the slices of bread and place them on the bottom of each soup bowl. Pour the soup over the bread and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Just before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over each serving and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.