Serves 6 to 8. Published January 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.
If you are pressed for time you can “quick-brine” your beans. In step 1, combine the salt, water, and beans in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans and proceed with the recipe. We prefer cannellini beans, but navy or great Northern beans can be used. We prefer pancetta, but bacon can be used. To make this soup vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth and 2 teaspoons of olive oil for the pancetta. Parmesan rind is added for flavor, but can be replaced with a 2-inch chunk of the cheese. In order for the starch from the beans to thicken the soup, it is important to maintain a vigorous simmer in step 3. The soup can be cooled, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat it gently and add basil just before serving.
|1/2||pound dried cannellini beans (about 1 cup), rinsed and picked over (see note)|
|1||tablespoon extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for serving|
|3||ounces pancetta , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (see note)|
|2||medium celery ribs , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)|
|1||medium carrot , peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)|
|2||small onions , peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)|
|1||medium zucchini , trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)|
|2||medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)|
|1/2||small head green cabbage , halved, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups) (see step by step below)|
|1/8 - 1/4||teaspoon red pepper flakes|
|2||cups low-sodium chicken broth|
|1||piece Parmesan cheese rind , about 5 by 2 inches (see note)|
|1 1/2||cups V8 juice|
|1/2||cup chopped fresh basil leaves|
|ground black pepper|
|grated Parmesan cheese , for serving|
1. Dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
2. Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 3 to 5 minutes. Add celery, carrot, onions, and zucchini; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 5 to 9 minutes. Stir in garlic, cabbage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes; continue to cook until cabbage starts to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer vegetables to rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
3. Add soaked beans, water, broth, Parmesan rind, and bay leaf to now-empty Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and vigorously simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are fully tender and liquid begins to thicken, 45 to 60 minutes.
4. Add reserved vegetables and V8 juice to pot; cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf and Parmesan rind, stir in chopped basil, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with olive oil and grated Parmesan.