The thing is, this a near perfect food in every respect. Healthy? Check. Easy to make? Check. Easy on the wallet? Check. Sweet, salty, sour, spicy, crisp, tender and smoky? Check. Utterly addictive? Check!
Tuscan Bean Soup with Fennel
Start with a Soffritto: (Used in Mediterranean, Latin American, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese cooking, a soffritto typically consists of aromatic ingredients cut into small pieces and sautéed or braised in cooking oil).
1 large onion, rough chopped
2 celery ribs, rough chopped
4 garlic cloves, whole, peeled
In a food processor, pulse 15-20 times until finely chopped. Place in a Dutch oven and add:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Stir over medium high heat for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a light brown fond is on the bottom of the pot. (Fond is the name for the caramelized bits left on the bottom of the pan after sauteeing).
28 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes. In a food processor, pulse tomatoes 10-12 times.
Add the tomatoes to Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, turn heat to high, heat for 9-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until a rubber spatula leaves a trail when dragged through the bottom.
8 cups favorite chicken or vegetable broth (if not using homemade, Better than Bouillon is a favorite)
From one fennel bulb:
2 T minced fronds
Bulb halved, cored and cut into half inch pieces
Add broth and fennel bulb to pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until fennel begins to soften 5 to 7 minutes.
(2) 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained, liquid reserved
1 small head kale (10 oz), trimmed and cut into 1/ 2 pieces (8 cups)
Stir in beans and kale and cook until fennel Is fully tender, about ten minutes.
Thicken the Broth
Reserved liquid from cannellini
2 large egg yolks
Whisk egg yolks and reserved bean liquid together in bowl, then stir into soup.
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 T minced fresh oregano
Stir in parsley, oregano, and fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Adjust oven rack about five inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place bread on aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Broil until bread is deep golden brown.
Place one slice of toast in the bottom of each individual bowl. Ladle soup over toasted bread. Serve, passing Pecorino and lemon wedges separately.
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan Reggiano (use rind as well)
Inspired by the Nonna at our lodgings from our 2003 trip to Tuscany