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Zuppa di Verdura e Fagioli (Vegetable and Bean Soup)

Ingredients:
1 cup                           Pasta or wheat berries optional
1 cup                           Zolfini or Cannellini beans, dried, soaked overnight
2 T                               Olive oil or sunflower oil
5oz                              Pancetta, ground *
1 small                         Onion, med dice
1 cup                           Fennel med. Dice
1 ea                              Carrot, med. dice
5 leaves                       Swiss chard or spinach trimmed and coarsely chopped

2 cup                           Chard stems, peeled and cut crosswise ½ inch
3 cups                          Cavolo nero or traditional kale, trimmed and coarsely chopped
3 T                               Tomato conserve/paste

As needed                    Stock
As needed                    Tuscan bread slices,8 toasted

As needed                    Extra-virgin olive oil for garnish
To taste                                    Salt                 
To taste                                    Black pepper

Optional Garnishes:  Extra virgin olive oil, pesto, grana style cheese (pecorino, asiago or parmigianno)

Procedure:

  1. Cook beans with rosemary and garlic cloves until tender, reserve cooking liquid
  2. Simmer wheat in salted water until tender, reserve
  3. Heat 2T of the olive oil in a large rondeau or soup pot over medium-low heat
  4. Add ground pancetta and cook until just browned (optional).
  5. Add onions, carrots, chard stems and fennel and cook until soft
  6. Add tomato conserve and cook three minutes
  7. Add stock and reserved bean liquid as needed and simmer (season)
  8. Add chard, cavolo nero and simmer
  9. Add beans and wheat or pasta
  10.  Season and serve
    * the pancetta can be omitted or leaner cuts can be used (prosciutto)
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