Tuscan Bean and Spinach Soup
Minestra di Fagioli con spinaci
Bean, potato and spinach soup
The first in our "Memories of Italy" recipe series, to remind us of Italy while we still can't get there! This recipe is from my sister Sally who is a bonafide proper good cook, not a part-time "hope-for-the-bester" like me.
It comes from what is called "Cucina Povera", the cooking of the poor, with ingredients that might be found in the garden or in the larder during lean times. These recipes often use old bread, either heated up to revive it, then rubbed with garlic and oil, or soaked in the soup itself, to give it a little body. Like any "Cucina Povera" recipe the ingredients can be varied, left out, added to and changed according to what's in the fridge or cupboard. In these times of isolation and difficult shopping, we all need recipes like this, recipes that can be aimed at rather than followed precisely!
300 g dried beans (cannellini or haricot) 5 leaves of fresh sage 1 tbsp Olive oil 1L vegetable stock 4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 1 white onion, finely chopped 1 tbsp Olive oil Salt and pepper 100 gFresh spinach leaves
Soak the beans in water overnight. Drain and cover in a few cms of water, add a teaspoon of salt, the sage leaves and the olive oil and bring to a simmer, cooking for around an hour or if you have an Aga pop them in the simmering oven for 4 to 5 hours.
Gently cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft before adding the potatoes and stock and cook until the potatoes are done, around 25minutes.
Add the cooked beans, salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes before adding the fresh spinach leaves. Cover the pan to allow the spinach leaves to wilt.
Serve on crusty bread toasted and brushed with garlic, with plenty of black pepper and a swirl of olive oil, parmesan if desired.
And there you have it - and remember, resourcefulness is the name of the game!
Use tinned Cannellini beans if you haven't any dried, use frozen spinach if you haven't any fresh - or kale if you have neither fresh nor frozen spinach. Toast some old bread and rub it with garlic if you have no crusty loaf.
It's a robust recipe and will take some knocks. Stay safe and stay well and we'll see you in Tuscany again before too long!