Cabbage, Bean & Farro Soup

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We returned to Umbria a week ago today to very cool temperatures, LOTS of rain, and a very cold farmhouse. When I am cold, the first thing I want to do is pull out my soup pot and make a big pot of vegetable goodness that we can enjoy for lunch or dinner. Nothing better on a cool, damp day than a warm bowl of soup! I headed off to large supermarket in Todi to see what I could find to inspire my soup of the week last Wednesday, and came home with a head of cabbage, and my usual onion, carrot, and celery mix. I decided to add in some canned borlotti beans, canned pomodorini (cherry tomatoes), and farro from my pantry, as well as a handful of fresh herbs from my herb garden. I like to flavor my soups with some finely diced pancetta that I cook up with the onions, but if you want to keep this soup vegetarian, simply skip the addition of the pancetta and use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.

This soup is very easy to adapt to your own taste. You can use kale, or Swiss chard in place of the cabbage, your choice of bean variety in place of my borlotti beans, and even switch out the farro for another grain or small pasta shape. If you cannot find canned cherry tomatoes where you are, simply use a pint or so of very ripe fresh ones, or substitute a can of chopped tomatoes. If I am serving this soup for dinner, I often ladle it into the bowl over a thick slice of grilled, crusty Italian bread rubbed with garlic and brushed with olive oil. For lunch, I keep the soup simple and just serve it as is with one of my favorite garnishes. In the photos, I added a dollop of fava bean puree that I made this week, as well as a drizzle of our own olive oil and a sprinkle of cracked black pepper. A dollop of basil or sun-dried tomato pesto is also delicious, and you can never go wrong with some grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2014

Cabbage, Bean & Farro Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion, Peeled & Diced
  • 2 Carrots, Trimmed & Diced
  • 2 Celery Stalks, Trimmed & Diced
  • 1/3 Cup Diced Pancetta
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 6 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock (Plus Additional Water As Needed)
  • 1 (14 Ounce) Can Pomodorini (See Notes Above)
  • 2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
  • 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley Leaves
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes (Optional)
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • 1 1/3 Cups Dried Farro
  • 1/3 Head of Savoy Cabbage, Sliced Thin & Chopped, About 4 Cups
  • 2 (14 Ounce) Cans Borlotti Beans, Drained & Rinsed

To Serve:

  • Garnish of Choice (See Notes Above)

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat until warm, then add the onion, celery, carrot, and pancetta and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened and the pancetta is no longer pink, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, and cook another minute or two.
  3. Add the stock, canned tomatoes, thyme, parsley, chili flakes, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and then add the farro and cabbage, and cook until the farro is just tender to the bite, about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the canned beans and a cup or more of water if the soup seems too thick.
  6. Cook an additional 5 to 6 minutes, then taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Remove the fresh thyme sprigs, and then serve very warm in individual bowls with your garnish of choice.