The Road to Assisi and other adventures in the kitchen: Italian Peasant Soup

By on April 12, 2017

My friend, Barbara Gibbs Ostmann is off on a great adventure to Italy. She’ on the pilgrimage trail to Assisi. Her trip turned out to be a real pilgrimage because she had to make three trips to the airport before she could even take off for Rome. 5 days, back and forth. But not to be stopped, she persevered and now, I’m on a delicious arm chair adventure with her as she makes the pilgrimage to Assisi.

Since we’re both food writers, the first thing that caught my eye was a bowl of Italian peasant soup she ate known as Tuscan Farro and Bean soup. My pilgrimage began in hunting down the farro, which is an ancient form of wheat found in Italy. Two days and three grocery stores later, I found it. Yahoo.

This is a wonderful hearty soup that gives you the real spirit of Italy. Soak the beans and farro grains overnight in water, then make the soup the next day. Yum.

Italian Farro Bean Soup with Pancetta

Tuscan Farro and Bean Soup

Italian peasant food at its finest. My friend, Barbara Gibbs Ostmann, who is walking the Assisi trail gets all the credit here. Thanks, Barbara. This fine old country dish, is actually a two day process, since you need the overnight to soak the dried beans and the farro, an ancient form of wheat.
I had to stop at three grocers before finding the farro, which just looks like wheat in the package, but it was worth it. What a wonderful, hearty dish.
Makes 8 servings
2 ounces Finely Diced Prosciutto or Pancetta
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
3 cloves garlic, peeled, and minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 (14 Ounce) can chopped tomatoes
2 small zucchini, diced
3 to 4 cups cooked dried beans (great Northern, Borlotti or Cranberry)
1 cup cooked Farro
10 cups water or chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped Fresh Basil
Red Hot Pepper Flakes, salt & pepper to taste
To Serve:
extra virgin olive oil
grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
crusty Italian bread

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan and add the pancetta or prosciutto, celery, carrots and onion.
Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and fragrant and the pancetta is beginning to brown, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.
Next, add the chopped tomatoes and zucchini.
Add broth or water to the pot.
Bring to a boil and season with the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Add the cooked beans, basil and farro to the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook about 1 hour, or until thick.

Farro Bean Soup in a bowl

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About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”