Why It Works
- Beans and bread thicken and enrich this traditional stew.
- A variety of vegetables creates a deep, rich, flavorful soup.
- You can control the final consistency by leaving the stew more broth-y, or cooking it down to a thicker porridge. The porridge can then be sautéed into a savory pancake.
This hearty Tuscan stew is loaded with tender vegetables and beans and thickened with bread. You can even simmer it down, then cook it into a savory vegetable pancake.
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 medium red onion, diced (about 7 ounces; 200g)
- 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, diced (about 13 ounces; 370g)
- 4 large carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 1/4 pounds; 525g)
- 2 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash (about 1/2 of a medium squash) (about 12 ounces; 360g)
- 1 turnip, peeled and diced (about 8 ounces; 240g)
- 3 large celery stalks, diced (about 8 ounces; 240g)
- 1 bunch lacinato kale, stemmed, leaves roughly chopped (about 6 ounces; 170g) (see note)
- 1 bouquet garnis (herb bundle made from a few sprigs each of mixed herbs, such as parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf)
- 2 cups cooked beans, such as cannellini, navy, or cranberry, plus 1 cup bean-cooking liquid or water (if using canned beans) (see note)
- 1/4 pound (110g) fresh or stale rustic crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving (optional)
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat with garlic. Cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant and very lightly golden. Add onion, leek, carrots, squash, turnip, and celery and cook, stirring, until slightly softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add enough water to slightly cover vegetables (about 6 cups; 1.5L) along with kale and bouquet garnis and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat to maintain simmer and cook until vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes.
Stir in beans and their cooking liquid (or 1 cup water if using canned beans). Add bread, stir well, and simmer until bread is very soft and breaking down, about 15 minutes. Add water, 1/2 cup at a time, if soup becomes too thick and dry.
Season with salt and pepper. The soup can be served at varying consistencies: more wet and broth-y, like a thick, chunky soup, or cooked down until thickened like a porridge. Once reduced to a thick porridge, you can ladle some of it into a small (8-inch) nonstick skillet with 1 tablespoon oil and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it coalesces into a dense mass; it will eventually take the shape of a pancake. (If your flipping skills are good, you can flip it to serve it browned side up.) Slide it onto a plate. To serve at any consistency, drizzle with fresh olive oil and top with freshly ground black pepper and grated cheese (optional).
Lacinato kale is also sold as dinosaur kale, cavolo nero, and black kale. You can use canned or cooked-from-dried beans here, though dried ones will be even more delicious (especially if you cook them with aromatics, like onion, garlic, and herbs, in the water). Two 15-ounce (425g) cans of beans will yield slightly more than the 2 cups needed here. Roughly 1/3 pound (150g) of dried beans will yield about 2 1/2 cups cooked. Feel free to alter the vegetables according to personal taste or season. I recommend leaving in at least the onion (or leek), garlic, carrots, and celery.