Tuscan Minestrone Soup
Every region of Tuscany has its own version of this soup, depending on what grows there in abundance. The type of greens may vary as well as the beans, the vegetables and the spices, but one thing in common is that there are beans, greens and vegetables. Some add small pasta, rice or farro. So, feel free to adjust this recipe to your liking.
1 ½ cups dried cannellini beans (or borlotti, cranberry, garbanzo beans)
2 medium leeks, cleaned well and sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups cavolo nero (black kale), escarole or spinach, sliced
¼ medium white cauliflower, broken into small pieces
1 large can (28oz.) diced Italian tomatoes w/juice
1 tsp. Tuscan mixed spices
Salt & pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Extra virgin olive oil for garnish
Soak the beans in water for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse. Place the beans in a large pot with 8 cups lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 2 hours or until beans are tender. (You can also do this in a very speedy fashion in a pressure cooker, or use canned beans.) Obviously, you will get more flavor if you use fresh beans, but if you are in a hurry, canned will work too.
Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. (If you use canned beans discard their liquid and rinse thoroughly.) Take half the beans and process with a food mill or immersion blender. In a large soup pot, saute the leeks, onion, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add the broth, cauliflowerettes, tomatoes, potatoes, greens, spices, and creamed beans to the pot, stirring occasionally. Cook for 30 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Add the rest of the drained beans and gradually the bean liquid (or water if using canned beans) until you achieve the desired consistency. Cook, covered, another 30 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and top with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.