I am updating this soup from the archives (2010) because it's the kind of rich, timeless, quick soup that helps in times like these. I did it this afternoon and I feel a little better than that. There is a cut to do, which keeps the hands busy and the mind focused. The components of the base are flexible and straight from the cellars – grains, canned tomatoes, beans. And if you have a lot of products that need to be used, such a soup is perfect – eat some, freeze some.
I want to keep my original place here, because it reminds me of how I felt about cooking for them ten years ago. // (February 23, 2010) I spent the night at my mom and dad's house last week. I'm sure I mentioned it before, but they live an hour south of San Francisco in Los Gatos. It's nice cooking in their kitchen this time of year, because the view from the sink is pretty. The hills surrounding their home are a light shade of green and the old oak trees are covered with moss and lichens. They say that coyotes have come out recently, but when grown up they were mostly deer, skunk and raccoon (and the occasional snake). I made a large Farro saucepan and stew beans for them – simple, rich and simple. They both came back in seconds, and I got it as a good sign.
The recipe below turned out to be a deviation from the recipe we copied, folded, and slipped into the bag of the night – independently, I wanted to mention the book that comes with inspiration – La Cucina: The local cooking of Italy. I read at night. It is the culmination of his work Accademia Italiana della Cucina. It is an organization of thousands of members who would visit villages, towns and farms across Italy to document their cooking techniques and materials – to preserve their country's culinary heritage. The resulting volume is huge at 930+ pages. The Farro soup portion has five or six recipes.
I've made tweaks and variations to this soup over the years, and you ended it with pretty much anything. Here are some favorites.
Harissa & Slice: We ate the soup sprinkled with gourd / olive oil and a good amount of feta. Highly recommended for those of you seated in Harissa. Mix one reason together about 1/3 harissa oil in 2/3 olive oil. Sprinkle over the top of the soup.
Cilantro-garlic: Illuminated here with a sprinkling of garlic-olive oil. Arrange the leaves and stems of a spoonful of zucchini with 2-3 cloves of garlic, a pinch of salt and olive oil to cover.
A version with cedar beans, Savoy cabbage, and cabbage.
Your strategy for beans
You have a lot of width here. I've made versions of this soup with dried beans and canned beans. Have used I used Sangre de Toro beans, Rosa de Castilla , cannellini beans and (as you can see here) canned chickpeas. I used Sangre de Toro beans the First time. The second time I used Rosa de Castilla. Both were fine (the drink from the Sangre de Toro was good in a good way) but the Rosa de Castilla it was exceptional – held their shape, then melted in your mouth. Red beans are traditionally used. Canned chickpeas work great. It's all delicious, use what you think you might like or have at your disposal. And remember, if you use dried beans, great! Save the bean broth and use it in combination with the water required in the recipe for a wonderful full body broth.
A creamy soup without cream
One last option you can explore if you like. If you drink a cup of cooked beans before adding them to the soup, then you will have a "more creamy" broth. I've skipped this step in the recipe below, opted for a clearer broth (as you can see above), but keep the idea in your back pocket.