Makes 8 to 10 cups, serving 6 1 c. dried cannellini beans, Roman beans, white navy beans or borloti beans 1 sprig fresh rosemary 1 ½ tsp. salt 3 lg. slices dried porcini mushrooms 1 ¾ oz. pancetta, chilled or frozen ¼ c. olive oil 1 med. onion, peeled and coarsely chopped 1 sm. celery rib, thinly sliced A cruet of freshly-pressed olive oil 1 med. carrot, peeled and diced 1½ tsp. garlic, minced 1 lb. Tuscan kale (also called Lacinato kale) or ½ lb. kale or chard and ½ lb. cabbage ½ cup tomato puree Pinch of mixed spices: nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves Freshly ground black pepper 12 slices dense country bread, grilled or toasted and rubbed with a clove of garlic
Pick over the beans. In a large saucepan, soak the beans overnight in cold water to cover. Drain the beans and cover with 21/2 quarts cold water. Add the rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cook at a simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, about one hour. Midway add ½ teaspoon salt. Discard the herb sprig. Wash and soak the mushrooms in 1cup warm water for 10 minutes. Shred the pancetta to make about ¼ cup. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta, onion, celery, garlic, and carrot and cook until the vegetables are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the kale and strip the leaves from the stems. Finely chop the leaves; add to the saucepan and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, soaking liquid, 1 teaspoon salt, the tomato puree, and the mixed spices and continue cooking over low heat for 10 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Push half the beans through a food mill fitted with a fine blade, or puree in a food processor. Add the pureed beans, the whole beans, and six cups of the cooking liquid to the saucepan; bring to a boil and simmer for twenty minutes. (The soup can be prepared earlier in the day up to this point. When cool, cover and set in a cool place until ready to reheat, 20 minutes before serving.) Correct the seasoning of the soup with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and reheat to boiling. Place the slices of grilled bread in a soup tureen and pour on the hot soup, or just add the bread sliced to the pot of soup and turn off the heat. Let the soup rest for 10 minutes before serving. Pass a cruet of extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top at the table. To use your leftover bread soup to make Sienna-style ribollita: Place the leftovers in a shallow terracotta dish or oven proof casserole. Spread a layer of red onions, sliced paper thin, over the top and brush with an aromatic and fruity olive oil. Bake in a preheated 350- degree oven until the oil begins to boil and the onions form a golden brown crust, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve after a rest of 10 to 15 minutes. Accompany the version of ribollita with a pepper mill and a cruet of fresh olive oil.
Recipe from Mediterranean Grains and Greens by Paula Wolfert
Note: You can substitute canned white beans and use chicken, beef or vegetable stock in place of the bean water. Adjust the salt accordingly. I’ve even used leftover pinto beans with good results. You can add leftover plain pasta, green beans, peas, or potatoes also. Make sure the bread is a good quality hearth bread, sourdough country French or Italian made with some whole wheat is best.