From Farmgirl Fare
Paula Butturini’s Zuppa di Fagioli / Italian White Bean Soup
(My version made about 9 cups)
Whenever it’s snowing, or simply dank and cold, my family likes eating sturdy soups to ward off mid-winter chills. This hearty Italian soup—which can be made with any dried white beans or a combination of varieties—warms our kitchen while it’s cooking and warms us through when we sit down to eat it.
You can speed the whole process by using a 20-oz can of good quality, canned, white or cranberry beans, and using only 3-4 cups of water. In that case, you simply skip Steps 1 and 3, and add the canned beans and water to the stockpot at the end of Step 2.
This is the sort of recipe that invites improvisation and experimentation. You could make it ten different times and end up with ten different soups—all of them good. Just use what you have on hand and personalize the pot to suit your taste.
I tend to prefer thick (dare I say sludgy?) soups to brothy ones, so I reduced the amount of water, upped the veggies, and added extra beans (I used canned organic cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans).
For the pork portion, I used a small but meaty smoked ham hock from the locally raised hog we bought a while back and had butchered to our specifications (and which has sadly just about all been eaten up). Good call—it added a wonderful smoky flavor. After the soup finished simmering, I cut the meat from the bone and into small pieces, then stirred the ones I didn’t pop in my mouth back into the pot.
If you want to make a vegetarian version, you could toss in some fresh (or even dried) herbs to add more depth. It would probably also be very tasty made with good chicken stock instead of water.
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