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White Bean, Kale and Farro Minestra with Parsley Pesto

The beans:
1 cup white beans (such as Steuben Yellow Eye, canellini, navy, or other white beans), soaked overnight
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
rind of parmesan (optional)
a sprig of sage
1 bay leaf
4 parsley branches
10 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

The soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
2 medium carrots, diced (1 cup)
3 celery ribs, diced (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh (buy in bulk)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
splash red or white wine
3/4 cup farro, soaked for at least one hour, or overnight
1 teaspoon salt
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice
1 bunch black kale, stems removed, leaves shredded
(Optional) 1 pound of sausage

Parsley Pesto (by Alanna)
leaves from 1 large bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup lightly packed grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil


Adapted (barely) from Madison's Vegetable Soups
8 hearty servings

Plan this a day ahead so that you have time to soak the beans and farro overnight.

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, combine the drained beans, garlic, parmesan, herbs and 10 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until almost tender, about 45 minutes. Add the salt and continue cooking until the beans are tender, about another half hour. Drain the beans, reserving the broth, and pull out the herbs and parmesan and discard.

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the onion, carrot, celery, herbs and garlic and saute until golden and soft, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, lowering the heat as needed.

Mash in the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, then splash in the wine. Drain the farro and add, along with the salt, the tomatoes and their juice, and the beans and their liquid.

Optional: Add sausage or other meat.

Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook until the farro is mostly tender, 15 - 20 minutes.

Add the kale, and simmer gently until the farro and kale are soft, another 15 minutes or so. Taste for salt, and add more water if necessary; farro is a thirsty grain and will drink up liquid.

Serve with a swirl of parsley pesto, below, or a simple grating of parmesan, drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of chopped parsley. The soup keeps well for up to a week in the fridge, or frozen for up to several months.

Parsley Pesto: Place the parsley leaves, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until fairly smooth. Pour in the olive oil, and blend until smoother. Taste for salt, and add more oil of you want a thinner consistency. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to several months.

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