White Bean and Dried Bread Soup

serves: 5 to 6 servings

This is a traditional Tuscan soup from the area of Arezzo, made with bread grilled over an open fire and virgin olive oil unfiltered straight from the press-the frantoio. Believe me, a pot of beans never tasted this good. As bread is a principal ingredient, use one with fine flavor, preferably an artisan-baked loaf with great crust and an airy crumb with lots of holes. Old bread-pane vecchio-is best, because it is already dry, but day-old or even fresh bread can be used.

4 cups country bread, cut into 2-inch chunks
6 cups Garlicky White Beans and Broth
salt, if needed, to taste
freshly ground black pepper


Cut 5 or 6 thick slices of bread and toast them slowly in a dry heavy skillet, such as cast iron, until completely crisp all the way through and deeply browned on both sides. If you happen to have a fire going, grill the bread so the grill flavor can permeate the soup.

Heat the broth to an active simmer in a sturdy 4-quart pot. Stir in the grilled bread chunks. If they're floating in a lot of liquid, leave the pot uncovered; cover it if the broth just covers the bread. Cook slowly and steadily, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, until the soup is thick and soft, but the bread chunks still have shape and integrity. Turn the bread in the broth frequently so it doesn't stick to the bottom, but don't mash it up.

Taste and add salt, if necessary, and pepper. Serve right away in warm bowls, with generous amounts of fruity extra-virgin olive oil and freshly grated cheese.