A perfect fall dish, this hearty soup is both light and comforting, with garnishes of crisp pancetta and Parmesan curls adding the perfect amount of texture and saltiness. Stir in the arugula or spinach just before serving to release their earthy flavors.
Tuscan Bean Soup
1 cup (7 oz./220 g.) dried cranberry beans, picked over and rinsed
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, sliced
6 cups (48 fl. oz./1.5 l.) vegetable or chicken stock, homemade or purchased
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 cup (7 oz./220 g.) farro, rinsed
1 can (15 oz./470 g.) diced tomatoes, drained
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 oz. (185 g.) thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
1 1/2 cups (1 1/2 oz./45 g.) baby spinach or arugula
Shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
In a large bowl, combine the beans with water to cover by 2 inches (5 cm.) and let soak overnight. Drain well.
In a large, heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion, carrots and celery and saute until beginning to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Pour in 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml.) of the stock and stir to dislodge any browned bits on the pan bottom. Transfer the contents of the pan to a slow cooker. Stir in the drained beans, the remaining 5 cups (40 fl. oz./1.25 l.) stock and the oregano. Cover and cook on the low setting for 4 hours.
Stir in the farro, tomatoes, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper, re-cover and cook for 2 hours more. The beans should be tender but not mushy and the farro should be tender but still slightly firm.
About 5 minutes before the soup is ready, in a heavy fry pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and add the pancetta. Saute, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
Remove and discard the oregano sprigs from the soup. Ladle the soup into warm, shallow bowls. Top each serving with some of the spinach. Garnish with the Parmesan and pancetta and serve at once. Serves 4 to 6.