Tuscany's markets in the fall, according to our co-founder Merrill, are overflowing with rapturous vegetables and fruits. When I asked her about a soup recipe she had shared on Food52 in the site's early days, she recalled a scene from a particularly memorable autumn trip to Italy years back: Accompanied by friends, Merrill wandered around local markets in Tuscany, where the produce was bountiful this time of year and wines like Sangiovese and Chianti were being poured with just about every meal.
"Shell beans were everywhere!" she exclaimed, which was why they decided to make soup. After exhausting the day at the markets, Merrill and her friends returned to the villa where they were staying with an assortment of seasonal ingredients ("The cavolo nero was too beautiful to resist—I think it might have actually been the first time I'd cooked with it") and threw together her original Pasta and Bean Soup with Kale.
They had also dropped into a butcher shop nearby and bought lardo for crostini, as well as a couple of roosters (Merrill's first—and only—time cooking those guys), which they braised in red wine for hours to get rid of the toughness (inspiring this dish).
Since her trip, Merrill says, she's made the soup (but not the roosters) many times, tweaking it here and there. Over the years, the recipe has evolved to become a bit brothier and more tomatoey. The revised version also gets specific about the herbs, to reflect what's actually growing in her planters in Brooklyn.
But that's a bendable rule—what you have in yours might be different, so you don't need to feel wedded to the ones she mentions. A note on preparing it a few days in advance: Merrill says that if you are planning to cook it ahead of time, don't cook or add the pasta until you have reheated the soup and are ready to serve it.
It's lovely for leisurely fall weekend days with family or friends, bubbling away on the stove and filling the house with a little slice of Italian countryside.
- 1 1/2 cups pinto or cranberry beans, rinsed
- 4 cups chicken stock (homemade or low sodium)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 3 large sage leaves
- 1 pinch salt
- 12 1/2 ounces can chopped tomatoes, with juices
- 1 cup loosely packed white bread (use a Tuscan or French loaf and tear the inside into chunks, discarding crust for another use)
- 2 cups finely chopped tomatoes, with the juices
- 1 pinch red chili flakes
- 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups roughly chopped kale leaves (no stems)
- 4 ounces small dried pasta wuch as trofie, tubetti or macaroni
- 1 splash extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pint freshly grated parmesan, to taste
We're partnering with Ruffino Wines to share recipes for food and drink throughout the year that'll get you living like an Italian (in spirit—although we can't promise you won't want to pick up and move there). See all their wines here.