Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuscan Greens Soup (Zuppa di Cavolo Nero)

Tuscans often drizzle fresh olive oil in the shape of a C onto each bowl of soup before serving it. The heat of the soup releases the fragrance and flavor of the oil. Some Italians refer to it as “battesimo dell’olio”, baptizing with oil, so perhaps it symbolizes the casting off of bad taste or evil kitchen spirits. All the more reason to do it.
The traditional Italian green for this soup is Tuscan kale, known as “cavolo nero” (black cabbage). It is a somewhat tangy green that develops a subtle sweetness during cooking. Many American grocery stores, and seed catalogues, market it as “Lacinato” or “dinosaur kale”. Regular kale may be substituted if your greengrocer has not yet caught up with the Tuscan variety.


2 cups dry cannellini (white kidney) or other medium-size white beans, like Great Northerns
2 celery stalks (leave the tops on)
2 medium onions
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
6 fresh sage leaves
4 ounces pancetta
6 peeled garlic cloves
1 large red or yellow onion (optional, you can use the two from the beans instead), finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves (optional, you can use the 6 from the beans instead), finely chopped
1 large celery stalk (optional, you can use the 2 from the beans instead), finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound "cavolo nero" (dinosaur kale or Lacinato) or regular kale, stems removed, leaves washed and shredded
1/2 pound fresh, ripe tomatoes (about 1 cup chopped), or 1 cup drained, chopped canned plum tomatoes, or 1 cup tomato sauce
6 cups unsalted vegetable or meat broth (optional, you can use the liquid the beans cooked in, though you may want to add some meat broth or bouillon for extra flavor)

Soak the beans: Rinse the beans and go over them carefully to remove any small stones. Do not add any salt to the soaking water or to the beans while they are cooking, because it will toughen the skins and they will not become tender. Once the beans have softened, they can be salted. There are two ways to soak the beans:
  • Cover the beans with cold water by 2 inches and soak for four hours or more.

  • Put the beans in a pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, boil 2 minutes, then cover and turn off the heat. Let the beans sit for 1 hour.
Cook the beans: Drain the beans and then pour them into a clean 6-quart soup pot and cover with fresh water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat so the liquid barely simmers. Add the 2 celery stalks, 2 onions, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 bay leaves, 6 fresh sage leaves, 2 ounces of the pancetta, and the 6 peeled garlic cloves. Simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 to 1½ hours; you should be able to mash a cooked bean easily with your fingers.
Fish the vegetables out of the pot and use a colander to separate the beans and the cooking liquid (if you are using broth for the soup, you can discard the bean cooking liquid).
Cook the soffritto: Measure the 3 tablespoons of oil into the pot and set it over medium-low heat. Stir the pancetta, onion, garlic, celery, and carrot into the warming oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook slowly and gently until the vegetables are tender, aromatic, and translucent, 15 to 10 minutes.
Add the vegetables:Scatter the kale over the soffritto, season with salt and pepper, stir it around to distribute the soffritto as evenly as possible, and cook over a moderate heat until the greens are wilted, about 7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, season, and cook 7 more minutes.
Cook the soup: Pour in the broth, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the beans to the soup, and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.


Jennie said...

This soup sounds healthy, filling and delicious!
I can't wait to try!

Aurelio Barattini said...

Hi Jennie,
let me know how with was!

Bo said...

This soup really sounds wonderful!

Aurelio Barattini said...

Hi Bo, thank you to visit my blog