SERVES 8 TO 10
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: Our version of acquacotta, one of Italy’s traditional vegetable soups, features creamy cannellini beans, tender fennel, and faintly bitter escarole. Though acquacotta translates to “cooked water,” we used chicken broth and amped up the flavor with a soffritto, a mixture of sautéed onion, celery, and garlic. A food processor made quick work of finely chopping these ingredients as well as the canned tomatoes that flavor the broth. Aromatic parsley, oregano, and fennel fronds gave our soup its distinctive taste. Finally, we thickened the broth with a mixture of the bean canning liquid and egg yolks and ladled our finished soup over toasted bread, turning a humble vegetable soup into a hearty one-bowl meal.
1 large onion, chopped coarse
2 celery ribs, chopped coarse
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt and pepper
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 cups chicken broth
1 fennel bulb, 2 tablespoons fronds minced, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained with liquid reserved, rinsed
small head escarole (10 ounces), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (8 cups)
2 large egg yolks
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
10 (1/2-inch-thick) slices thick-crusted country bread
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt and pepper
- FOR THE SOUP: Pulse onion, celery, and garlic in food processor until very finely chopped, 15 to 20 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer onion mixture to Dutch oven. Add tomatoes and their juice to now-empty processor and pulse until tomatoes are finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses; set aside.
- Stir oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper flakes into onion mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until light brown fond begins to form on bottom of pot, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, increase heat to high, and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is very thick and rubber spatula leaves distinct trail when dragged across bottom of pot, 9 to 12 minutes.
- Add broth and fennel bulb to pot and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until fennel begins to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in beans and escarole and cook until fennel is fully tender, about 10 minutes.
- Whisk egg yolks and reserved bean liquid together in bowl, then stir into soup. Stir in parsley, oregano, and fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- FOR THE TOAST: Adjust oven rack about 5 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place bread on aluminum foil–lined rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Broil until bread is deep golden brown.
- Place 1 slice bread in bottom of each individual bowl. Ladle soup over toasted bread. Serve, passing Pecorino and lemon wedges separately.
Photo Credit: Carl Tremblay