When Leah nominated Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook for this month’s Cookbook Guru title, I was in two minds. Don’t get me wrong. I went through a Marcella Hazan stage from the late 80s and I believe she has influenced my cooking profoundly. I was studying Italian at the time and her discussion of things like the importance of ‘soffritto’ and ‘salt’ changed my cooking style. At the time, Marcella became my cooking mentor,- I loved the sound of the Italian titles; the two obsessions in my life, Italian language and cooking, complemented each other so well.
In those days I owned two other cookbooks written by Marcella. They preceded her The Classic Italian Cookbook which I don’t enjoy as much. So I am sure you won’t mind if I share my favourite soup recipe, taken from her earlier work. This recipe is a family favourite: we have adapted it along the way but it is still close enough to the original. Marcella, I recall, flavours the oil with whole garlic cloves and then discards them. I chop it and keep it all- it flavours the stock beautifully. It has become our ‘chicken soup’, a pick me up. I have attempted to list quantities here: normally it’s a handful of this, a bunch of that and a couple of cups of beans. The beauty of the soup relies on fresh ingredients and it costs almost nothing to make. The costly items are the Parmigiano cheese and good quality oil.
Zuppa di Bietola e Fagioli Bianchi.
(or less romantically, Silverbeet and White Bean Soup)
- one small branch of fresh rosemary, stripped, chopped.
- 5 Tbles EV olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic or more, finely chopped.
- 6 fillets anchovies
Make a soffritto with these ingredients in a large pot. Melt the anchovies down in the oil, stirring well, being careful not to over colour the garlic.
- one large bunch silverbeet
- 500 gr cooked cannellini /great northern beans ( from 300 dried)
- two small handfuls of macaroni/digitali/small shaped pasta
- grana padano/reggiano parmigiano cheese
- best EV olive oil for serving.
Wash and trim the silver beet. Finely slice, including the stems, and add to the soffritto, stir around and coat with oil till they wilt.
Add beans. Add enough water to barely cover ingredients. Cook on a steady heat for around 5 minutes. Add pasta, some salt, and cook until the pasta is al dente.
Adjust salt, stir some grated parmigiano through the soup. Serve with a little stream of fine oil and extra parmigiano.
This is a piatto unico, a one course meal, with good bread. Serves 4-6.