Ribollita(Italian Kale and Bean Soup)

Source: Ina Garten (adapted by Barbara Pistrang)

Ingredients (for 8 generous servings)

2 cans (15-ounce each) of cannellini beans, with their liquid

kosher salt to taste (not much is needed; using none is fine, too)

¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for serving

¼ lb. pancetta, roughly diced

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

3 T minced garlic

1 tsp. ground black pepper

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 can (28-ounce) chopped plum tomatoes in puree

4 cups coarsely chopped kale, preferably Lacinato kale (aka Dinosaur kale)

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

6 cups good chicken stock

4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed (works fine with gluten free bread also)

½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the pancetta and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, salt to taste, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the kale and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the beans, reserving their liquid. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans (1 can) with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot along with the remaining can of drained whole beans. Pour the rest of the bean liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

This recipe is excellent immediately after cooking and improves if refrigerated after cooking and served the next day after reheating.