- 1/2 pound white beans, such as cannellini
- 1 small onion, halved
- 1 large bay leaf
- A few sprigs rosemary
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small bulb fennel, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced or chopped
- 1 red chili pepper, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 large head escarole, cleaned and coarsely chopped
- A little freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes
- 1 quart chicken stock or “No-Chicken Stock”
- 1 piece rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 pound malfatti (flat, jagged egg pasta) or broken flat lasagna sheets
Soak beans overnight in water or quick-soak by covering by 2 inches with boiling water and leaving them for about an hour.
Rinse soaked beans and place them in a pot with the onion, bay, rosemary and garlic. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and bring to a medium, rolling boil. Add salt and cook beans to tender, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the herb stems, bay, onion and garlic, and reserve.
For the soup, heat another pot over medium heat with olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add fennel, onions, garlic and chili pepper, season with salt and cook, partially covered, to tender, about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Wilt escarole into pot and add a bit of nutmeg to greens, about 1/4 teaspoon.
Hand-crush tomatoes and add them to the pot. Add stock, reserved beans and cheese rind. Simmer soup 20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. If the soup is too thick, add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook to just tender. Remove the cheese rind and serve soup in shallow bowls topped with EVOO and cheese.