Kale and Cannellini Bean Stew
- 8 ounces dried cannellini beans (or butterbeans or borlotti beans)
- 2 bay leaves
- olive oil
- 1 5-ounce piece pancetta
- 2 large onions
- 2 carrots
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 14 ounces tomatoes, chopped – we left tomatoes out for obvious reasons
- (instead, I added a stalk of celery)
- 4 cups water or vegetable stock – we used a very rich vegetable stock
- 1 small butternut squash or pumpkin – we left this out
- 1 meaty ham bone or knuckle of prosciutto
- a short length of Parmesan rind
- handful parsley, coarsely chopped
- 2 large handfuls cavolo nero (black kale) or small cabbage, cut into wedges – we used red kale
- grated Parmesan (for serving – I didn’t use this)
Soak the beans overnight in deep, cold water. Drain, put them in a large, deep saucepan, and cover them with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then remove the froth from the surface with a slotted spoon. Drop in the bay leaves and a tablespoon or so of olive oil and let boil merrily for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender (older beans tend to take a little longer). Add salt to the water about 20 minutes before the end of cooking. Drain and set aside. (…put a hot of olive oil over them at this point to prevent them from sticking together).
Cut the pancetta into short lengths or fat cubes, put them in a deep pan with a couple of spoonfuls of oil, and set over medium heat. Peel the onions, halve them, and slice them thinly. Once the pancetta has begun to sizzle, add the onions and stir them from time to time until they soften.
Scrub the carrots, cut them into large dice (I sliced them), and add to the onions with garlic. Let everything soften without coloring, lowering the heat as you need to. Add the tomatoes and let them soften and melt a little into the other vegetables before pouring in the water or stock. Peel and coarsely chop the squash or pumpkin and stir it in.
Now is the time to add the ham bone and Parmesan rind. Either one will make a huge difference to the finished flavor. Bring the soup almost to a boil, then decrease the heat so that it simmers gently. Cover with a lid but set it askew, so that steam escapes. Let simmer, with only occasional stir, for an hour and a half, by which time the soup should be thick, rich, and heavy.
Add the beans to the pot along with the parsley and cabbage leaves. Continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan.
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