This soup is a beauty. It used up half a dozen cans of my Covid stock of beans and tomatoes in the tests, and I was thankful for that, but it is the flavours I love, especially the day after making. It seems richer and tastier then. I’ve given options for finishing it off with toasted crusts of bread, or Italian style with parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
250g (8-9 oz) dried cannellini beans, or 2 x 400g (14 oz) cannellini beans 1 leek 2 onions, peeled and chopped 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 3 carrots, peeled and sliced Small bunch parsley, large stalks removed and chopped 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil Several leaves of cavolo nero, or 150g (5 oz) baby spinach leaves, washed 400g (14 oz) waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed 400g (14 oz) canned Italian-style tomatoes Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Ciabatta bread, toasted, or bread of choice Freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving, optional Freshly ground black pepper or chilli flakes Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling, optional
1 Soak beans in cold water for several hours. Cook in plenty of fresh water until tender; reserve cooking water. See PULSES – All you need to know for tips.
2 Trim leek top and bottom then split down the length with a sharp knife. Wash leek thoroughly under running water then chop. Put onions, garlic, carrots, leek and parsley in a large saucepan with olive oil, cover with a lid and cook gently for 30 minutes, until very tender.
3 Prepare the cavolo nero by stripping the leaves off the stalks (discard stalks). Chop roughly. Add cavolo nero, potatoes, tomatoes and three-quarters of the beans with 2 litres (about 4 pints) cooking liquid (or make up with water). Bring to the boil and cook gently without a lid for 30 minutes.
4 Purée the rest of the beans with a little bean water and add to the soup. (If using canned beans, add them all now and heat through for 5 minutes. Mash about one-third of the beans and vegetables with a potato masher to thicken the soup.) Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. (If using baby spinach leaves in place of cavolo nero, add now and let spinach wilt and heat through.)
5 Dish soup into bowls. Finish off with torn pieces of bread, parmesan cheese, black pepper or chilli flakes and a drizzle of oil. Serve immediately.
Canned beans are cheap enough but buying dried beans, soaking and cooking them, is cheaper still, especially if you do a big batch and freeze some for another recipe. If you don’t have time to soak the beans, use two 400g (14 oz) cans cannellini beans (rinse and drain) and use water or light vegetable stock in place of bean water. For more information on pulses see here Pulses
For more information on preparing cavolo nero see here Cavolo Nero
If cavolo nero is not available, use baby spinach leaves, washed.
Extra virgin olive oil is called for in the soup, as it is part of the flavour and adds nutrients, but it doesn’t have to be a top-of-the-line oil. However, for drizzling over the soup, buy the best you can afford.