Italian Bean and Vegetable Soup (Zuppa alla Frantoiana)
In this traditional Lucchese soup, vegetables and beans are slow-cooked until little to no bite remains, making it a rustic, comforting dish. Be sure to give any tougher vegetables all the time they need to scompare, or disappear. The quantities are flexible, so use whatever you have on hand.
- 1 cup dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
- 1⁄2 cup dried cannellini beans
- 4 garlic cloves, 1 clove smashed
- 1⁄2 small bunch sage
- 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. tomato paste
- 1⁄2 bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped (3 cups)
- 1⁄2 small head white cabbage, leaves cut into large squares, core finely chopped (5 1/4 cups)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (1/2 cup)
- 1⁄2 medium bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1⁄2 spring onion, thinly sliced (1/4 cup)
- 1 small leek, chopped and rinsed well (1 cup)
- 1⁄2 1/2 medium kabocha or small butternut squash, peeled and chopped (2 cups)
- 1 small zucchini (1/2 lb.), sliced 1/4 inch thick
- Herbs such as peppermint, lemon balm, salad burnet, tarassaco (a type of dandelion), and fennel fronds, roughly torn, for garnishing
- Crusty bread, for serving (optional)
- In a large pot, add the beans and enough water just to cover (about 2 1⁄2 cups). Let soak at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Add 4 quarts fresh water, 3 garlic cloves, and half the sage to the pot; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a strong simmer and cook until beans are very soft but not yet falling apart, 1 1⁄2 hours. Turn off the heat and let rest. (Beans can be cooked up to 1 day ahead.)
- In a small pot, add the smashed garlic and the oil. Cook over low heat, turning occasionally, until the garlic is softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining sage and the tomato paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until darkened slightly, 4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Remove the sage, let cool slightly, and finely chop. Return to the pot.
- Mill or mash the beans if desired, or leave whole. Transfer the tomato mixture to the pot with the beans. Bring to a boil and season with salt to taste. Stir in the kale, then return to a boil. Stir in the cabbage and bring to a simmer; let cook 10 minutes, then add the carrot and fennel. Let cook 4 minutes, then add the celery. Cook 2 minutes, then add the onions, leek, squash, and zucchini; simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the herbs and turn off the heat. Serve with crusty bread if desired.