This has to be one of the best soups I have made this year.
Cooking cabbage for a very long time brings it to another dimension. It brings out the sweetness and makes for a complex, yet very light soup that can be enjoyed in any type of weather. Having it with toasted bread makes a complete meal.
For a vegetarian (vegan) version, replace the pancetta with one ounce (28 g) dried porcini mushrooms that you will have taken care to rehydrate by soaking them in boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes. Soaking them beforehand lets you get rid of the sand and grit. Then, chop the mushrooms finely before adding them to the pot. You can use some of the filtered soaking liquid and add it to the soup.
Minestra di cavolo e cannellini
3 tablespoons olive oil
75 g (3 oz) pancetta, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 head Savoy cabbage
1 liter (4 cups) chicken or vegetable broth
1 liter water
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
whole wheat country bread, for serving
salt and pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
1. In a dutch oven over medium-low heat, cook the pancetta (or porcini), rosemary and sage until the pancetta starts to crisp up, a few minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
3. While the flavour base is cooking, chop the cabbage in small pieces, discarding the core. Add the cabbage gradually to the pot and stir fry until the cabbage starts to soften, maybe 10 minutes.
4. Add the broth and water, and a good pinch of salt. Cover tightly and cook, covered, for 3 hours.
5. After 3 hours of cooking, add the cannellini beans and cook for another 15 minutes, uncovered. Taste for seasonings, add pepper and more salt if needed.
6. Serve in warm bowls over a toasted bread slice and garnish with a good drizzle of olive oil.