Tuscan Bean Soup with Cavolo Nero

A richly flavoured soup from the hills of Tuscany. Its flavour is best if made several hours ahead and reheated just before serving. Cavolo nero, also known as Tuscan black kale, has a milder, nuttier flavour than its British cousin, curly kale.

Serves: 4-6
Keeps: 3 days in the fridge Freeze: 3 months
Per serving: 210 cals, 31 g carbs

2 medium carrots
1 stick celery
1 medium leek
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp fresh rosemary
or 1⁄2 tsp dried rosemary 1 tsp fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp tomato purée
1⁄2-1 tsp sea salt
2 x 400 g tin cannellini or haricot beans
1 litre (35fl oz) strong vegetable stock
100g (3 1⁄2 oz) cavolo nero,
or a handful of baby spinach or chopped curly kale
10 grinds black pepper
extra virgin olive oil to serve

Trim, peel and chop the carrots and celery into small dice by hand or food processor. Trim then quarter the white part of the leek lengthwise and slice thinly. Strip fresh rosemary leaves from the stalk and chop finely.

Heat the oil, rosemary and fennel seeds in a soup pan for 30 seconds until fragrant, then add the garlic, crushed in a press, tomato purée, and chopped vegetables. Sprinkle with the salt, and stir to coat with the fragrant oil. Rinse and drain the beans, then add to the pan with the stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Strip the cavolo nero leaves from the coarse stalks (save the stalks for vegetable stock if you like). Roll the leaves up into a tight bundle then shred coarsely. Add to the pan and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove a ladleful of the beans with some of the liquid, purée it until smooth in a blender or food processor, then return the purée to the pan. Stir in the black pepper. Leave to cool for the flavour to develop. To serve, reheat, until bubbling, and top each serving with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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