Here is a fall version of our favorite Italian vegetable soup. Of course, you can make substitutions based on what you find at the market. Try onions instead of shallots, parsnips instead of carrots, chard instead of collards or potatoes instead of butternut squash.
Makes 4–6 servings
- 1 cup dried white beans
- Olive oil
- 2–3 ounces pancetta, diced, optional
- 2 medium shallots, chopped
- 3 medium-sized carrots, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 red or orange sweet pepper, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 small Butternut squash, peeled and chopped into small cubes
- 1 bunch collards or kale, stems removed, leaves thinly sliced
- 6 cups of homemade or organic free-range chicken or vegetable stock
- A small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Some grated Parmesan cheese, optional
- Crusty French or Italian bread, for serving
Rinse the beans in cold water. Put them in a large pot and cover with water. Bring just to a boil and then remove from heat. Cover and let sit for one hour. Drain and discard cooking water. Return beans to the pot, add water to cover and simmer for one hour or until tender. Drain and set aside.
In a large soup pot cook the pancetta over medium heat until crispy. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and sauté the shallots, carrots, celery, pepper and garlic over medium heat for 5–8 minutes or until tender and translucent.
Add the Butternut squash along with the collards or kale, the broth and the reserved beans, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir to mix everything evenly. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 35–45 minutes or until the Butternut squash is tender. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve topped with the Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil along with some good, crusty French or Italian bread. It’s even better the next day.
Save the leftover soup and bread to make the thick stew Ribollita, which means reboiled in Italian.
The next night add several slices of diced day-old bread to the soup and bring the soup to a boil in a large soup pot. It will be very thick. Serve with a generous drizzle of olive oil on top of each serving and some additional grated Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper.