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Soup for the Lombards

Zuppa Lombarda


According to Iris, this soup was created for Lombard mercenary soldiers descending from Milan into Florence. They took up residence in osterie, inns, offering food and lodging. The innkeepers, surprised by the numbers of them placated their hunger by making a soup from some dried beans, stale bread and herbs.

Ever frugal, they even used the water that the beans cooked in as the broth. I have experimented with this soup allowing the beans to soak overnight and then briefly boiling them before finishing the soup in the oven. Done this way, the beans are creamy and smooth and the broth a surprisingly "rich" color.


1 cup dried cannellini, white kidney or Great Northern beans

1/2 cup Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 to 8 fresh sage leaves, torn into pieces

2 plum tomatoes, diced

Reserved bean cooking water

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

Grinding black pepper

6 to 8 slices toasted bread


Soak the beans overnight; drain them, put them in a pot, cover with 6 cups of cold water and cook them for 20 minutes. Set them aside but do not drain them.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch-oven-type pot or other ovenproof pot. Stir in the garlic and sage and cook until the garlic softens. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the beans, with their cooking water, and additional water to cover the beans if necessary.

Cover the pot and bake the soup until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Add the salt and pepper. Place a slice of bread in each individual soup bowl and ladle the soup over the bread. Pass olive oil to drizzle on top.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN TUSCANY by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2003.


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