Vegetable Soup with Fennel
Minestra di Verdure Miste con Finocchio

serves: 12-16 servings

2 cups white beans
2 pork backs
2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled
2 large carrots
5 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup tomatoes, chopped and peeled
1 pound spinach, shredded
10 ounces corn kernels
10 ounces fresh peas
1 pound fennel, diced fine
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Pick over and rinse the beans, and soak them overnight in plenty of water. In a large pot, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the drained beans, pork hocks, potatoes, carrots, and the bay leaves. In a skillet, lightly sauté the garlic in the olive oil until golden, add the tomatoes and sauté 10 minutes longer. Add the contents of the pan to the boiling pot, lower the heat, and simmer gently, covered, 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add the spinach, Swiss chard, corn, peas, and fennel, and parboil 10 minutes. Drain, and set aside. At the end of the first hour, remove the carrots and potatoes from the pot, mash them together with a fork, and return them to the soup. Add the reserved vegetables, season to taste, and simmer another 30 minutes, uncovered, skimming and stirring occasionally. Remove the pork hocks (which may be eaten separately) and the bay leaves. Adjust the seasoning and serve with crusty Italian bread or focaccia.