SERVES 4 TO 6
Beans are an ancient food. During the rise of the Roman Empire, beans were used as ballots for voting: White beans for yes, black beans an emphatic no.
Today beans make up a good part of my cooking. My pantry is lined with dried beans of every description from brown-speckled borlotti to grayish white cannellini. In this recipe, a meal in itself, bread is added to thicken the soup; other times I puree some of the beans to thicken it.
1 1/2 cups dried cannellini or small white beans
1/4 pound pancetta or bacon
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot
2 ribs celery
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 to 6 slices stale Italian bread, cut into chunks
Place the beans in a bowl, cover with water, and soak overnight. Next day, drain off the water, place the beans in a large pot, cover with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Cook the beans for 15 minutes. Drain off the water and set the beans aside.
Mince together the pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Set aside.
In a soup pot, heat the olive oil, add the minced ingredients and rosemary, and sauté the mixture over medium heat until the vegetables are soft and the pancetta begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the beans and coat well with the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, broth, salt, and pepper. Stir the mixture well, cover the pot, and cook on medium-low heat for about 35 minutes, or until the beans are tender but not mushy. Keep the soup on warm.
In a skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil, add the bread chunks, and sauté until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. Drain the chunks on brown paper.
To serve, place a few of the bread chunks in each soup bowl and ladle some of the soup over the bread. Serve immediately.
This recipe is from NELLA CUCINA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1993.
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