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It’s Italian and Yes It’s Divine


Last week a friend sent this soup recipe to me with the note, “This is divine.” Well, I don’t know about you, but when I see a recipe for something that’s very healthy and has been vetted by a friend (a friend who’s known for her fabulous soups, by the way), I’m very interested. But I must admit I was also a bit skeptical. While I love vegetable soup, this list of ingredients doesn’t contain anything that jumped out at me as “divine” — I mean if there was pancetta or bernaise or aged gouda… But I made it, and it was fantastic. It’s very hearty and flavorful and, with a sprinkle of freshly grated Grana Padano, downright divine.

 

Italian Vegetable Soup

Make sure you have a very large pot because this makes LOTS of soup. Be prepared to save some for lunches or give a pot to the neighbors. It’s easy to make but does require a fair amount of vegetable-chopping —  a great job for a kindergartner who needs to leave her brother alone while he studies for his vocabulary test. Also, if you’re already thinking of making this soup tonight (with whatever veggies you have in the fridge; this ingredients list is what I used, but any combination would be great, plus you could add spinach, scallions, leeks, broccoli, etc.), don’t. Since you need to soak a pound of beans overnight, the earliest you can make this is tomorrow, but I really suggest you do.

Italian Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs. dried white (cannellini) beans
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch disks
  • 6-8 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced (roughly the same size as the carrots so they cook evenly)
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (these can be smidge larger because they cook faster)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed thoroughly, trimmed of stems, and sliced into shreds
  • ½ head green cabbage, cored and sliced into largish shreds
  • 1 quart vegetable broth (I cheated and used a little chicken stock I had made the night before and then added water)
  • 2-3 tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

The white beans cooked with sage leaves are what give the soup its richness. I think.

Rinse the beans in cold water then soak them overnight. The next day, rinse and drain them, put them into a large pot, add water to cover by 2 inches, and cook with 3-4 sage leaves, a pinch of salt, and garlic cloves for about an hour.

Piles of vegetable chopped by a 6-year-old with a butter knife.

Heat 2 tbs. of olive oil in a large soup pot, add chopped onions, carrots, celery, and a few sage leaves, and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a pinch of salt. Add the zucchini and sauté for 5 minutes. Add broth or stock, cover, and bring to a simmer. Then add Swiss chard, cabbage, and tomatoes.

Swiss chard is in season and, as you can tell by its dark red & green color, VERY good for you.

 

At first I didn't think everything would fit in the pot, but it cooks down quite a lot.

Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for half an hour or so. Add the beans and their cooking water, salt to taste, and simmer, covered, over low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve with crusty bread and grated cheese (Parm or Grana Padano). While the soup was simmering, I sautéed the rest of the sage leaves (I had bought one of those packages of organic fresh herbs at the supermarket) to use as a garnish. They were delicious and really enhanced the sage-y flavor of the soup. To do this, heat 1 tbs. butter in a skillet; when the butter is foamy add the sage leaves and cook them until they’re crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel (like bacon). These would be good on almost any winter soup or buttery pasta dish. Mmmm.

I'm sure you can imagine what it smells like when you saute sage leaves in butter.

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