With beans, their broth, sage, wine and more garlic than seems sane, this soup cashes in on every frugal trick conjured up by old-time Tuscan farmers. Lynne’s Tuscan grandfather, Severino, finished this soup with a toasted piece of bread rubbed with garlic and moistened with olive oil in the bottom of the bowl, then ladling soup over it, and finishing it with a spoonful of cheese.
Cook to Cook: Borlotti beans, (beige with red speckles) are the tradition for this sort of soup in Tuscany, but our pintos or cranberry beans are it’s siblings so don't hesitate to use them instead. For bean broth you need flavorful beans. We’ve found the best bet is organic beans from a source where turnover is fast.
2. Lightly film the bottom of a 6-quart pot with olive oil and heat over medium high. Stir in the celery, carrot, the first onion, garlic, sage and cloves. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until golden.
3. Add the beans and enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a very slow bubble, partially cover, and cook until they’re tender, but not mushy—45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours. Stir in the half teaspoon of salt.
4. Make the soup. While the beans cook, lightly film a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan with olive oil. Heat over medium high; add the second onion with a little salt and about 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.
5. When the onion is golden brown, stir in the salami (if using), the second quantity of sage leaves, the rosemary, garlic and half of the red wine. Boil the wine down to nothing. Cover and set aside until the beans are done.
6. Scrape the contents of the pan into the beans, adding the escarole and tomato paste. Simmer everything together for 20 to 30 minutes, uncovered. Taste for salt and pepper.
7. To serve, heat the soup and toast 1 slice of bread per serving. Rub each slice of the toast with garlic, set one slice in each soup bowl, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Ladle the hot soup into the bowls and finish each helping with a few tablespoons of red wine. Pass the cheese at the table.
From The Splendid Table's® How to Eat Weekends: New Recipes, Stories & Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by American Public Media.
"It's sort of a funny thing for me to say as a restaurant chef, but my advice to my sons and to everyone is to cook at home at least most of the time," says chef Cal Peternell, author of Twelve Recipes.