Zuppa Alla Senese

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3 1⁄2 hours 10 Servings Print RecipeEmail Recipe


1pounddried cannellini
1 1⁄2cupred onion, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib (coarsely chopped)
2clovegarlic (coarsely chopped)
10sprigitalian parsley (coarsely chopped)
5 fresh basil leaves (coarsely chopped – or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled)
1teaspoonfresh rosemary (chopped – or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled)
5quartwater (or as needed)
1cupolive oil (plus additional for serving)
1⁄4poundpancetta or bacon (cut into small pieces)
2cupred onion, finely chopped
3 fresh ripe tomatoes (peeled, seeded or one can peeled tomatoes, seeded)
1teaspoonfresh thyme (chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled)
  ground black pepper
1smallsavoy cabbage head (trimmed, cored, cut into 2 x 1/2" strips – about 6 cups)
1 loaf coarse peasant-style bread (cut into 1 inch slices)


Wash and pick over beans; let soak overnight in water to cover.

Drain beans; rinse well. Place in large heavy stock pot along with coarsely chopped onion, celery, garlic, parsley, basil, and rosemary. Add 5 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt. Heat, covered, over medium heat to boiling, reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, until beans are tender but still retain their shape, about 1 1/2 hours.

Heat oil in heavy, medium noncorrodible saucepan over medium heat to rippling. Add pancetta and 1 1/2 cups of the finely chopped onion; sauté, stirring frequently, until both are golden brown, about 10 min. Pass tomatoes through food mill; add to saucepan along with thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside, off heat.

Heat oven to 350°F.

When beans are tender, remove from heat. Transfer half the beans with slotted spoon to medium bowl; reserve. Past remaining beans, with broth and vegetables, through a food mill. Pour back into stockpot; add water, if necessary, to make 5 quarts of liquid. Add cabbage and reserved tomato mixture; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, until cabbage is cooked, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place bread slices in one layer on baking sheet; toast in oven until lightly golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove stockpot from heat; add reserved beans. Let stand, covered, about 10 minutes. Just before serving, place one slice of bread and each warmed individual soup bowl. Ladle soup over bread; let sit 5 minutes to allow bread to soften. Sprinkle each serving with a few drops of olive oil and some of the remaining finely chopped red onion; pass grated Parmesan cheese on the side, if desired.

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