A dietary staple in Italian cuisine, cannellini beans bring tremendous flavor to this soup. Make it a day ahead of time -- it will taste even better when you're ready to eat it.
From the book "Lucinda's Rustic Italian Kitchen," by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Wiley).
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 small (6-inch) long carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)
4 celery stalks (the tender inner stalks with leaves), peeled and chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the beans well and place in a large pot. Cover the beans with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn off the heat. Allow to soak for 1 hour.
Place the olive oil, onions, and garlic in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, after about 30 seconds, add the carrots and celery and continue to cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, and parsley and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 3 minutes.
Add 6 cups of the soaked beans, cover with 10 cups of cold water, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender and creamy, at least 1 1/2 but up to 2 1/2 hours. Add water if necessary to achieve desired consistency; the soup should be thick. Add the salt halfway through the cooking. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, freshly black ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
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