This soup, like many others, actually improves if left for a day or so. We make a large batch and have it in varied ways – without the bread soaked into it but served on top of hot toast rubbed with raw garlic or with the bread and served at room temperature; puréed and cooked with short pasta such as ditalini; or this traditional way, with bread soaked into it, creating a thick, comforting texture for cold nights. Guests that come to our cooking classes in Tuscany often remark that something so simple can be so complex-tasting and delicious.
Prep time: 30 mins | Total time: 5 hours mins | Servings: 8
- 250g/8 oz dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and already cooked (see below)
- 2 cloves garlic
- Sprig of sage
- 3 small tomatoes
- Extravirgin olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1 leek
- 2 carrots
- 1 stick celery
- 1/2 cavolo nero (or kale)
- 1/2 curly white cabbage
- 3 skinned tomatoes (can be canned)
- Optional: other seasonal vegetables (potatoes, zucchini, green beans, winter squash, peas…)
- Sprig of thyme
- 1 litre/2 pints vegetable stock
- Salt, pepper
- 300g Tuscan-style bread in 1 cm slices
- The previous evening, soak the beans in plenty of cold water.
- Change the water and bring slowly to the boil, with the garlic, sage and small tomatoes. Cook slowly for approximately 2 hours, until the beans are tender.
- Discard the garlic and sage, and purée half the beans. While the beans are cooking, wash the vegetables well. Cut the carrots into discs or cubes, the tomatoes into large chunks, and the rest into fine slices.
- Put all the vegetables into a large pot to fry for 5 minutes in a good swirl of olive oil. Add the herbs, salt, pepper, the whole and puréed beans and the stock. The quantities should be such as to end up with a thick soup, but remember that the cabbage and cavolo nero will release a lot of water.
- Check the seasoning and cook with the lid on for about an hour and a half on a low flame.
- Take a terracotta bowl and line it with slices of bread. Add some soup. Alternate layers of bread and soup.
- Dress with plenty of olive oil and black pepper.
- Allow to rest for at least 2 hours so that the bread absorbs the liquid well.
- This can be served hot (boil again for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn the bread, or bake at 210°C for 10 minutes), at room temperature, or chilled, dressed with more olive oil.