Puréed White Bean Soup
SERVES 4 – 6
In Tuscany, we savored a version of this soup that used sorana beans—rare and expensive, they're hard to find even in Italy. Zolfini or cannellini beans are a fine substitute.
1 1⁄2 cups dried zolfini or cannellini beans
Sprig fresh sage
Sprig fresh rosemary
Freshly ground white pepper
6 tbsp. fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1 slice country bread, cut into 1⁄2" cubes
1 oz. pancetta, cut into short, thick strips
1. Put beans in a large earthenware casserole, cover with cold water, and set aside to soak for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain; then add, sage, rosemary, and 6 cups cold water, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, about 1⁄2 hour. Season to taste with salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until bean skins are tender and interiors are soft, about 1–2 hours more.
2. Purée beans along with their cooking liquid in a food processor until smooth. (If purée is too thick, thin with a little water or vegetable broth.) Return soup to casserole, season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm.
3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add bread and pancetta, and fry until bread is golden and pancetta is lightly browned, 6–7 minutes.
4. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with croutons and pancetta, and drizzle soup with remaining 4 tbsp. oil.