In the spirit of cucina povera (poverty cuisine), Italian mothers and grandmothers have repurposed for generations a thick vegetable stew (every family has their own recipe) by submerging bread and cheese in it and reheating.
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 carrot, trimmed, peeled, and chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced peeled garlic
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans
- One 15-ounce can whole
peeled tomatoes, crushed with a spoon or your fingers
- 4 cups vegetable or other stock, such as chicken or beef
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 3/4 pound chopped kale or escarole
- 4 large, thick slices country-style bread, toasted
- 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large oven-proof pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, 5 to 10 minutes.
Heat the oven to 450°F. Drain the beans; if they’re canned, rinse them under cold running water, then drain again. Add them to the pot along with the tomatoes and their juices, as well as the stock, rosemary, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the soup bubbles steadily; cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the flavors meld, 20 to 30 minutes.
Fish out and discard the rosemary and thyme stems and stir in the kale. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Lay the bread slices on top of the stew so they cover the top and overlap as little as possible. Scatter the red onion slices over the top, drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with Parmesan.
Put the pot in the oven and bake until the bread, onions and cheese are browned and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. (If your pot fits under the broiler, you can also brown the top there.) Divide the soup and bread among 4 bowls and serve with extra virgin olive oil for drizzling.
Serves 4 — Recipe adapted from cooking.nytimes.com