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Start The New Year With Winter Tuscan Soups

Zuppa alla Frantoiana is a rich Tuscan winter soup. Credit: Aurelio Barattini

Zuppa alla Frantoiana is a rich mix of vegetables and beans. Credit: Chef Aurelio Barattini

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but according to studies on diet, a bowl of soup a day can help you keep that New Year’s resolution to lose weight.

When I think of hearty, healthy soups, I think of Tuscany, so I asked chef Aurelio Barattini to share two classic soups of Lucca.

Zuppa di farro, a thick soup made with dried borlotti beans, features farro, aka spelt, a whole grain that has been popular in Italy since ancient Roman times. “The contrast between the velvety mashed beans and the chewiness of the farro has a wonderful mouthfeel and really showcases the intense natural creaminess of the beans, but without needing any dairy at all,” Barattini says.

The other soup, a rich mix of vegetables and beans, is called zuppa alla frantoiana, named for the Italian word for an olive press because it features a final finish of newly pressed Tuscan olive oil, which “is characterized by an intense flavor, spicy and pungent,” Barattini says. “This soup has all the flavors of Tuscany and we enjoy it accompanied by a local wine like our red Malolina that we make ourselves.”

Zarro di farro is a thick winter soup from Tuscany.

Zuppa di farro is a thick soup made with borlotti beans and spelt, with a drizzle of olive oil. Credit: Chef Aurelio Barattini

Tuscan Farro Soup (Zuppa di farro)

Courtesy of chef Aurelio Barattini, from the restaurant Locanda Antica de Sesto in Lucca, Italy

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 1 1/2 hours, plus overnight resting

Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

14 ounces dried borlotti beans

4 to 6 sage leaves

6 cloves garlic

Salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, preferably from Lucca, plus more to finish

1 small onion, finely minced

1 medium carrot, finely minced

1 stalk celery, finely minced

2 rosemary stems

2 to 3 marjoram stems

2 tablespoons tomato concentrate

7 ounces farro, rinsed

Black pepper

Directions

1. Soak the beans in water overnight in a soup pot.

2. Drain water, cover the beans with clean water and add sage leaves and 2 cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer.

3. When almost tender, season to taste with salt and continue simmering until tender. Add more water as needed.

4. Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion, carrot, celery, remaining 4 cloves of garlic, rosemary and marjoram until light golden. Add the tomato concentrate and about 1 cup of the beans’ cooking liquid. Simmer until thick, and then combine with the beans.

5. Pass the bean mixture through a food mill until smooth, then return to the soup pot and bring to a boil.

6. Add the farro and cook on low heat for about 40 minutes, until the farro is tender.

7. Serve in a bowl topped with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Lucca’s Bean and Vegetable Soup (Zuppa alla Frantoiana)

Courtesy of chef Aurelio Barattini of Locanda Antica de Sesto in Lucca, Italy

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour, plus overnight resting

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

21 ounces dried beans

3 cloves of unpeeled garlic, plus 1 peeled clove

2 to 3 sage leaves

Salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish

1 potato, peeled and diced

1 leek, thinly sliced

3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 zucchini, diced

1 bunch Swiss chard, diced

1 bunch kale, diced

2 cups diced cabbage

Red pepper flakes

8 ounces pancetta, minced

1 small onion, very finely minced

2 celery stalks, very finely minced

2 carrots, very finely minced

1 cup finely minced fresh basil, thyme, parsley and rosemary, divided

2 tablespoons tomato concentrate

1 sage leaf

Toasted baguette slices

Directions

1. Soak the beans in water overnight.

2. Drain and put the beans into a soup pot with 1 gallon of water, 3 cloves of unpeeled garlic, 2 sage leaves and a pinch of salt, simmer on medium until tender.

3. Meantime, in a separate pot sauté the potato and leek in oil until half cooked. Add the zucchini, chard, kale and cabbage and cook until tender. Season to taste with red pepper flakes.

4. Put 2/3 of the cooked beans through a food mill and remove any skins. Add the pureed beans, whole beans and the vegetables into the soup pot and simmer for about a half-hour. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Meantime, in a small frying pan, sauté the pancetta with the onion, celery and carrots until tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the herbs and tomato concentrate and simmer another 5 minutes. Add this mixture to the soup pot and bring to a low boil.

6. Mince together the remaining 1/2 cup herbs, sage leaf and remaining garlic clove and stir into the soup.

7. Top the soup with a drizzle of olive oil and serve with bread.

Main photo: Zuppa alla Frantoiana is a rich mix of vegetables and beans. Credit: Chef Aurelio Barattini



Zester Daily contributor Francine Segan, a food historian and expert on Italian cuisine, is the author of six books, including "Pasta Modern" and "Dolci: Italy's Sweets." She is a host on i-italy TV and is regularly featured on numerous specials for PBS, the Food Network and the History, Sundance and Discovery channels.

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