Serves 8 +
One reason I love making soups is that you can include whatever legumes and vegetables you have handy; just leave them perking on the stove until they are velvety and delicious. They do not need a lot of attention, and they are best when they reflect the seasons. This hearty, healthy soup comes from the hills of the Le Marche region in Italy. Cabbage, especially Savoy cabbage, becomes very mellow and almost sweet when cooked in this soup. I love cabbage in a soup, especially in the fall and winter months, when it is seasonal and readily available. Cabbage is packed with nutrition and also quite economical.
- 4 ounces slab bacon, cut into chunks
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 medium onions, cut into chunks
- 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch chunks
- One 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1 pound dried kidney beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 1 medium head Savoy cabbage, shredded
- 2 pounds medium zucchini, diced
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
In a food processor, process the bacon to a smooth-textured paste, or pestata. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon paste, and begin to render the fat. In the same food processor, combine the garlic, carrots, and onions. Process to another smooth pestata, and add to the rendered bacon. Cook until the pestata begins to dry out and stick to the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, and 6 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer, then add the beans and bay leaves. Cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
Uncover, add the cabbage, and cook for another 20 minutes, until the cabbage has wilted and made room in the soup for the zucchini. Add the zucchini, and continue to simmer the soup until the beans are very tender, another 1 to 1½ hours. Season with the salt. Serve hot.