Tuscan Bean Soup

This hearty and traditional soup from Tuscany is more like a stew than a soup and has been a favourite in our family for generations – you can almost eat it with a fork, and it’s ideal for cold winter lunches or dinners. Make sure you make a big pot, as everyone will want seconds!

You will need:

  • 2 Cups of dried (soaked overnight in cold water!) or tinned Red Kidney beans
  • 5 Teaspoons of tomato paste or 1 x 420g tin of peeled tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped (optional)
  • ½ a head of Savoy cabbage, roughly shredded
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 leeks, chopped (optional)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 zucchini, diced (optional)
  • ½ a Cup of finely chopped bacon
  • Finely chopped basil, to taste (optional)
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2-3 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • ½ a Cup of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Crusty Italian bread, sliced (see Cook’s Notes!)

And this is what you do:

Cook the soaked beans in fresh water for about 2 hours, or until tender, or use the beans straight out of the tin. Drain, reserving the liquid, and put about half the beans through a fine sieve or blender. Put aside. Heat the oil in a large pan and gently saute the garlic, onion, celery, carrot, rosemary and bacon until they begin to brown. Dilute the tomato paste with a little warm water and stir into pan or add the tin of peeled tomatoes. Add the cabbage, leeks, zucchini, basil, and parsley, as well as the puréed and whole beans, and their cooking water. Add a little extra hot water if necessary. Check seasoning and cook slowly for 30 minutes.

To serve:

Serve the thick soup poured over slices of crusty Italian bread – a little extra olive oil may be drizzled over the top if desired.

Cook’s Notes:

Never, ever use that awful, tasteless, plastic wrapped “square” rubbish commercial bread! – It. JustWon’t. Work! – it’s far too light-textured and tasteless, OK?! Try Ciabatta, Sourdough, or Rye (though Rye can tend to be a bit “stodgy” sometimes…)