This substantial Tuscan soup packed with veg, beans, cabbage, bread and olive oil is one of my all-time favourite recipes both to make and eat. Somewhere between a soup and a stew, in Tuscany they typically make it so thick with bread and oil that you can eat it with a fork. It's also one of those dishes that improves with age, so every time you reheat it, you notice that its deliciousness has doubled. It's not supposed to be a fussy soup, however, so whatever vegetables you have at hand are fine to throw in, just make sure you always start with the onion, carrot, celery base and build it from there.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 big handfuls of parsley leaves, finely chopped
500g cavolo nero or savoy cabbage, stems removed
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, drained and rinsed
600g freshly cooked borlotti and/or cannellini beans or 2 x 400g tins, drained and rinsed
2 big handfuls of stale sourdough or ciabatta bread, crusts removed
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
In a deep, heavy pan over a medium-low heat, warm the oil and add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and half the parsley and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until the veg is completely soft and sweet.
Meanwhile, bring a deep pan filled with plenty of salted water to the boil and blanch the cabbage until tender, then take off the heat (don't drain).
Stir the tomatoes into the veg, breaking them up with your spoon as they go in, and a big splash of cabbage cooking water and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. Add the beans (and any cooking water if cooked from fresh) and cook for a further few minutes. Using a stick blender, puree approximately a third of the mix while still in the pan to thicken it up.
Scoop in the cabbage and rip in the bread, then pour over enough cabbage water to just cover the veg. Season, then bring to the boil before turning down to a simmer for 20-30 minutes until you have a rich, thick soup. Stir in the parsley and drizzle each portion with plenty of nice olive oil. Keeps for a week and will just get better and better.