This soup is kind of like magic. First of all it is incredibly flavorful with humble and easily accessible ingredients. Second, it's flexible. If you have vegetarians in the crowd you can leave off the pancetta or bacon and just use water instead of chicken stock. Third, this is a recipe to use up stale bread, which is always nice. If you have no bread to use up, no sweat, it's still good without the bread. I have adapted the Barefoot Contessa recipe (http://www.foodnetwork...) by skipping a step or two and adding the parmesan rind and bay leaf for flavor. I have made this many times for many people and all have loved it. Nothing is as hearty and wholesome as soup and this one is packed with veggies. Don't you feel better already? —JORJ
dry cannellini beans
cloves of garlic
chopped tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes)
chopped pancetta or bacon
celery stalks (get organic, celery is on the dirty dozen list because of pesticide residues)
Drain the beans and put them in a pot with fresh water and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes.
While the beans cook, prep the veggies -- chop up the cabbage, kale, onion, carrot and celery. No need to be too persnickety here -- it is a rustic soup.
In another heavy-bottomed pot put the pancetta or bacon with a little olive oil and turn on the heat to low. Once the fat from the pancetta or bacon is rendered but not crispy, add the onions and celery and carrots and sauté till the onions are translucent. Stir in some salt, pepper and a little crushed red pepper.
Stir in the cabbage and the kale (should be about 8 cups altogether). Add the crushed tomatoes and make sure to scrape up the bottom of the pot to make sure you deglaze the pan.
Add the chicken stock, the parmesan rind, and the beans with their liquid. You want it to be a chunky soup but still have some yummy broth, so you can reserve some of the bean liquid or some of the chicken stock for when you are putting away leftovers (in my experience it always thickens). Bring the soup to a boil and simmer it for 20-30 min.
Ten minutes before serving, add the bread cubes.
Spoon out the soup into bowls and drizzle with some good olive oil, some chopped parsley and parmesan.