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Roasted Vegetable and Farro Soup (Zuppi di Farro con Verdura)

This nourishing soup is a specialty from the mountains of northwestern Tuscany. Here, robust dark green, lacinato kale replaces the usual smoked pancetta for a hearty vegetarian version.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2 lb./250 g) freshly shelled borlotti (cranberry)
      beans
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed flat but left whole
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 fresh sage sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 Tbs. (3 fl. oz./80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for
      drizzling
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh herbs, such as parsley, rosemary and
      thyme
  • 1 small bunch lacinato (dinosaur) kale, tough bottom stems
      removed, leaves coarsely shredded (about 4 cups) (4 oz./125
      g)
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) tomato puree
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 small fresh hot chile, minced
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup (7 oz./220 g) farro, rinsed and drained
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Freshly grated pecorino Toscano cheese for garnish

Directions:

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the beans, garlic, rosemary sprig, thyme sprig, sage sprig, bay leaf and 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add water to cover by 1 inch (2.5 cm) and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the herb sprigs. Cover to keep warm.

In a soup pot over medium-low heat, warm the remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil. Stir in the carrots, celery, onion and minced herbs and sauté until the onion is softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the kale and cook until wilted and just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree, salt and chile and increase the heat to medium. Add the broth and 3 cups (24 fl. oz./750 ml) water and bring to a boil.

Stir in the farro and the cooked beans with their liquid. Bring the soup to a boil, cover partially and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer gently until the farro is tender but not mushy, about 40 minutes.

Sprinkle in the basil and remove from the heat. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti (Weldon Owen, 2011).