Ribollita

Serves 6-8

400g dried cannellini beans, soaked in cold water overnight
About 3 litres water
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 small garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Small bunch of sage
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
150g farro, well rinsed under cold water
400g jar (or tin) good quality peeled plum tomatoes
Bunch of cavolo nero, thick stalks removed, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil, preferably Tuscan, to serve

My version of this much-loved dish from Tuscany replaces the bread with farro, a grain grown in Italy, but holds the tradition of finishing with lashings of beautiful, peppery, grassy Tuscan oil.

Drain the beans and place them in a heavy-based saucepan. Pour on about two litres of water to cover generously and cook over a low heat until the beans are soft, about one and a half hours. Drain and set aside. Heat three tablespoons of the olive oil in a separate cooking pot (large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably) over a low heat. Add the onions, dried chilli and a pinch of salt. Sweat gently until the onions are soft and translucent. Now add the celery, carrots, garlic, sage, potatoes and farro. Cook for a couple of minutes to allow the heat to begin to release the flavours of the vegetables, then add the tomatoes. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes.

Stir in the cooked beans, then cover with about one litre of water – just enough for a thick brothy base in which the vegetables can cook properly. Add the cavolo nero and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for a further hour until the vegetables are really soft. Add a generous pinch of salt and few good grindings of black pepper.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Let the ribollita stand for a couple of hours – this will improve the flavour no end. To serve, reheat the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Turn up the heat to emulsify, then ladle into warm bowls.

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