Since our arrival in Umbria last week the weather has been cooler than usual which always is an incentive for me to head to the kitchen and create a new hearty soup. This is a very simple soup, typical of “cucina povera”, or Italian peasant cooking, as it uses just a few available inexpensive ingredients almost every Italian would have in their pantry. I did cheat a bit with this soup and used canned beans as I had them on hand, but dried or fresh beans would be more likely used. You can choose any bean you prefer such as chickpea, cannelloni, or kidney beans, but as I had borlotti beans in my cupboard they ended up my bean of choice. Farro is an ancient grain very popular in Italy, particularly central and southern Italy that is used in soups and salads. It has a slightly nutty taste and remains firm to the bite when properly cooked. In place of the farro, you could always use long grain rice, but I do prefer pre-cooking either one until they are “al dente” or just a bit firm to the teeth before I add them to the soup. To make a vegetarian version, simply exclude the prosciutto or pancetta from the recipe.
We enjoy a bowl of this soup at lunch over a slice of grilled bread, but it really is hearty enough to be a main dish entree for dinner if combined with some crusty bread, a mixed green salad, and perhaps some macerated fruit for dessert. To serve this soup, it is great with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, or both. A dollop of homemade basil pesto on top will also really bring this soup to life!
Deborah Mele 2011
- 2 Ounces Finely Diced Prosciutto or Pancetta
- 1 Medium Onion Finely Chopped
- 1 Celery Stalk, Finely Chopped
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled, And Minced
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 (14 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes
- 2 Small Zucchini, Diced
- 3 to 4 Cups Cooked Beans Of Choice (See Note Above)
- 1 Cup Pre-cooked Farro or Rice
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil or Parsley
- Red Hot Pepper Flakes (Optional)
- Salt & Pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil or
- Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese or
- Basil Pesto
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and once hot add the pancetta or prosciutto, celery and onion.
- Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and fragrant and the pancetta is beginning to brown, about 7 to 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.
- Next, add the chopped tomatoes and zucchini.
- Fill the empty can from the tomatoes with water twice and add that to the pot.
- Bring to a boil and season with the red pepper flakes if using, as well as salt and pepper.
- Add the cooked beans, basil and farro to the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer, adding additional water if soup is too thick.
- Continue to cook over low heat for 15 minutes to meld the flavors. Serve warm with topping of choice.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 712 Total Fat: 31g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 22g Cholesterol: 27mg Sodium: 1549mg Carbohydrates: 92g Fiber: 16g Sugar: 27g Protein: 28g