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Tuscan Vegetable and Bean Soup with Cheese Croutons

Yield 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups soup and 1 crouton)
There is no part of Italian cooking more diverse than its variety of bean soups. This traditional minestrone from Tuscany is fresh and flavorful, and it is even better the day after you prepare it. In the summer, this soup is delicious when served at room temperature with a little drizzle of extravirgin olive oil on top in place of the cheese-topped crouton.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried borlotti or pinto beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (about 1 large)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) slices zucchini (about 2 medium)
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubes Yukon gold or red potato (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup (1-inch) cut green beans (about 1/4 pound)
  • 3/4 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices carrot
  • 1 cup canned tomato puree (about 1/2 [16-ounce] can)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped Swiss chard or fresh spinach
  • 6 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country white bread (about 4 ounces)
  • 6 tablespoons (about 1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Nutrition Information

  • calories 237
  • caloriesfromfat 27 %
  • fat 7 g
  • satfat 1.6 g
  • monofat 3.8 g
  • polyfat 0.7 g
  • protein 9.3 g
  • carbohydrate 37.3 g
  • fiber 7.3 g
  • cholesterol 4 mg
  • iron 2.8 mg
  • sodium 831 mg
  • calcium 138 mg

How to Make It

  1. Sort and wash beans; place in a large bowl. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans.

  2. Combine beans and 8 cups water in a large Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.

  3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, parsley, and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add cooked beans, 5 cups water, and next 7 ingredients (through pepper). Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes. Add chard; simmer 5 minutes or until chard is tender.

  4. Preheat broiler.

  5. Place bread slices on a baking sheet; top each with 1 tablespoon cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and bread is lightly toasted. Ladle soup into individual bowls; top with cheese croutons.