Back when we were rich and had the Food Network, Ina Garten was my unlikely favorite. She isn’t flashy or dynamic or commercial-looking (like Giada 🙂 but man oh man. She can cook. I learned a lot from her. When I made this I used canned beans (quicker), regular bacon (cheaper), and skipped the step with the food processor (less mess). I’m sure it wasn’t as good as Ina’s, but it was good. Obviously if you’re avoiding dairy skip the cheese topping. I bet some crisp bacon bits on top would be nice in its place.
A note about the bread: If you are not eating wheat, I imagine boiled white potatoes would add similar heartiness, although I never tried it. If you choose to include bread, Harris Teeter carries the “La Brea” line of bread products. The baguettes (among other items) are free of soy, egg, and dairy so that is what I would recommend using.
- 1/2 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
- 1/4 pound large diced pancetta or smoked bacon
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
- 1 cup chopped carrots (3 carrots)
- 1 cup chopped celery (3 stalks)
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
- 4 cups coarsely chopped or shredded savoy cabbage, optional
- 4 cups coarsely chopped kale
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1-inch and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator.
Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with 8 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the pancetta and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the cabbage, if using, the kale, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.
Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Pour the bean cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.