Serves 8 or more
Every region of Italy has a vegetable soup, yet each one is distinctly difference. Each version uses different vegetables or legumes, or, as in this one, different intensities of spice. This recipe is from the region of Calabria, more specifically from an area called the Sangiovannese, which is well known for its cultivation and use of the peperoncino chili.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 slab spare ribs, cut into ribs
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or 2 or 3 small dried Calabrian chiles
- 1 pound cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 small savoy cabbage, cored and coarsely shredded
- 1½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 piece of rind from a chunk of Pecorino
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups cubed day-old country bread
- ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
- Grated Pecorino, for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes in all. Remove to a plate. Add the onion, leeks, garlic, and red pepper flakes or chiles. Cook until the onions and leeks begin to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, bay leaves, and 6 quarts cold water. Bring to a simmer, partially cover and let cook until the beans just begin to become tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Add the browned ribs, cabbage, potatoes, and cheese rind and simmer, uncovered, until the beans and ribs are tender and the soup begins to thicken, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Once the beans are tender, season the soup with salt and add the bread cubes. Bring to a rapid simmer and cook, stirring often, until the bread breaks down and thickens the soup, about 20 minutes more.
To serve, remove the cheese rind and bay leaves and stir in the parsley. Serve each portion with a rib or two and sprinkle with grated Pecorino and a drizzle of olive oil.