James and I spent ten days in the Ogliastra region of Sardegna (sardinia), Italy. We traveled in a little convertible, black Fiat through the most rugged terrain, visiting villages nestled on the side of the mountains where people lived to be over 100 years old without disease. Yes, no cancer, no diabetes, no dementia, and no heart problems. Often times we arrived in mid-day to find the streets deserted, but late afternoons, the streets came alive, and in the evening, there would be dancing and laughter and liters of cannonau wine.
This area of Sardinia is known as one of the Blue Zone areas, an area in the world where people live a quality life well into their nineties and one hundred years old. Typically, the Sardinian diet consists of fava beans and chickpeas, fennel, goats milk and goats cheese, tomatoes , almonds, milk thistle, and cannonau wine. The soup I’m sharing today, celebrates these ingredients. The world’s longest living family from Sardegna eats a similar minestrone soup almost every day.
To start, I soak 16 ounces of beans in water. I use a combination of any three beans. Today I’m using lima beans, chickpeas, and azuko beans. The Sardinians almost always use a type of fava beans or chickpeas. Those two beans are the toughest to cook and seem to go along with the ruggedness of the Sardinian Mountains. I cook the beans first, usually after rinsing and draining, and then simmering for a couple of hours. Recently, my girl, Molly Kennamer, introduced me to her Tupperware pressure cooker. This cut my cooking time by two hours. A great little kitchen appliance!
The freshest of vegetables is what gives this soup its flavor and nutrition. The Sardinians change their soup weekly, depending on what is available from the garden.
After adding the beans into a huge stock pot, I add a vegetable broth (or water), onion, fennel, carrots, celery, garlic, barley and a can of crushed tomatoes.
The onion and fennel must be minced well. My new chopper gadget from Tupperware makes this job a breeze. One onion turns into tiny choppings with just three “fun” pulls:
And the fennel:
Give it a stir and add salt and pepper and little kick of cayenne. I chop a little flat leaf Italian parsley and grate some pecorino cheese to top it off before we eat.
This is a staple at my house. I make it in many different variations. I hope you enjoy!
- 16 oz beans: I use three different types - lima (or fava), azuko (or red beans), and chickpeas
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 bulb of fennel, finely chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 3 medium potatoes (or four), I like the yellow type
- 2/3 cups of barley (small pasta can be used)
- 2 cups of broth (water can be used)
- 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or more)
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- a splash of cayenne pepper (optional)
- chopped Italian parsley
- grated pecorino cheese or freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1. Cook dry beans until tender. You can use cans if you have little time. Or, use a pressure cooker. Sometimes I use a crock pot.
- 2. Add beans to a stock pot.
- 3. Add all other vegetables.
- 4. After vegetables become tender, add the crushed tomatoes.
- 5. Cook until everything is tender.
- 6. Serve in a small bowl, top with parsley and cheese.
- 7. Add a slice of sourdough bread and enjoy.
- The nutritional information provided by this recipe card inaccurate. I will correct the glitch as soon as I can, but for now, you can be assured there is NO SUGAR added to this recipe.
NOTE: THE NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION ON THIS RECIPE CARD IS INACCURATE. There is NO sugar in this recipe.