A simple Italian vegetable soup is fortified with beans and grain for a hearty, rustic Tuscan Farro Soup.
Also known as zuppa di farro alla lucchese, this soup originates from the Tuscan city and province of Lucca, and includes some uniquely regional ingredients. Borlotti beans (also called cranberry beans or Roman beans), with their characteristic red streaks, are the more traditional choice for this recipe but can be difficult to source in some areas.
The ancient Roman grain farro adds body and a nutty flavor to this dish, with a good toothsome chew when cooked for less than an hour. A longer simmer continues to soften the grain, so it can be cooked according to preference even to the thick, porridge-like consistency. Always save the tougher, inedible rinds from Parmesan pieces as they can subtly flavor a stock as well as any bones.
Any white variety of bean, such as Great Northern beans or even common pinto beans, can be easily substituted as the goal is a mild and smooth texture to accompany the softening grain. Canned cannellini beans can be used simply for convenience (drained and rinsed, of course) although dried beans cooked slowly and separately for hours give the best results.
Other versions of this soup purée the beans before adding the farro and vegetables, or sometimes just prior to adding the farro. This lends a thicker, creamier consistency without needing dairy or a roux, and is entirely up to personal preference. Leave the vegetables cut thick for a more genuine farmhouse experience.
Serve topped with shredded Parmesan, a warm crusty loaf and compound butter. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Tuscan Farro Soup
8 oz cranberry beans (dried)
1 c farro
½ yellow onion
1 rib celery
2 cloves of garlic
14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
4 c chicken stock
1 T basil
1 Soak the beans overnight; drain and rinse before using.
2 Chop the onion, celery and carrot and sauté in oil over medium-high heat until soft. Mince the garlic and stir in with the tomatoes, tomato paste and farro.
4 Add the beans, stock, rind and 2 c water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30-45 min or until the beans and farro are tender.
5 Chop the parsley and add along with the basil. Season to taste.