This recipe takes me back to Lucca, a medieval walled city in Tuscany where my husband and I always stop to eat a lunch of thick, hearty soups. I say soups because frankly we skip the main course and order three soups instead: a farro soup; a lentil or bean soup such as this one; and a vegetable soup. Last week, craving the flavors of the soups we have savored in Lucca over the years, I came up with this simple, soothing recipe for lunch. A drizzle of raw olive oil just before serving and a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper bring all the flavors in perfect balance.
You can use dried cannellini beans if you prefer, but in that case, you will need to allow for overnight soaking and longer cooking. Use 1/4 cup dried cannellini beans, soak overnight in cool water to cover, drain, and cook in fresh water to cover until tender, then proceed with the recipe below.
To make this soup the starter to a perfect meal, serve with thick slices of garlic-rubbed grilled bread for dipping. Follow the soup with a simple salad of greens tossed with grated carrots, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and the crazy delicious wild rice fritters above.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 1 small carrot, minced
- 1 small celery stalk, minced
- 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peel on, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups water or chicken broth, plus extra as needed
- 1 cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for serving
- 1/2 pound fresh spinach leaves, washed and dried
In a heavy-bottomed 2-quart pot, place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the onion, carrot, celery, potato, and garlic. Set over medium-low heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring once in a while and adding a tablespoon or so of water as needed to prevent scorching, until the vegetables are starting to soften and the potato has lost its raw look.
Add the drained beans and season with the salt and pepper. Pour in the water or broth and cover again. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until the potato is completely tender and the beans have started to break down a bit, about 15 minutes. Using a fork, crush some of the beans against the side of the pot to thicken the soup.
Stir in the spinach, cover again, and cook 10 more minutes, or until the spinach is very silky. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve hot, drizzled with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.