Traditional spelled and bean soup from Tuscany, and more specifically from Garfagnana, the center of spelled cultivation in Italy.
We are talking about a very typical Tuscan dish. Not among the most famous (not as famous as ribollita, tomato soup or black cabbage soup) but it is among those typical dishes that give so much tuscan style so appreciated by a lot of foreigns.
Spelled is the oldest cereal cultivated by man. And for some millennia it was also the most widespread, before being gradually supplanted by wheat, which is also a derivative of it. Today it is a niche product, but It’s coming back into fashionin the face of growing pressure towards traditional, healthier foods low in fats and industrial sugars.
For an informed choice it is good to pay attention to different types of spelled that are available on the market. Which are essentially two: shelled and pearled.
He emmer decorticated It has been deprived of part of the gluteta (the outermost films of the grain, which are not digestible), but retains most of the bran and germ, where most of the vitamins, mineral salts and various nutrients are concentrated. Hence the high quality, but also the need for pre-soaking (from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the variety) and long cooking times, from 45 to 60 minutes or more.
Toward emmer pearly the bran and germ are also completely removed. In this way, most of the nutrients are lost (and also some of the characteristic flavor) but time is gained, because soaking is not necessary and cooking is reduced to about 25-30 minutes.
In our spelled and bean soup we used a hulled cereal from Garfagnana that only required 20 minutes of soaking in warm water.
The beans are cannellini beans., but borlotti beans are good too. The idea of using canned beans It is also acceptable, but only if the alternative is not making the soup due to lack of time. Otherwise, reward yourself with this excellent spelled and bean soup made in the best way. The flavor is really different with dried beans. and with the vegetable broth they produce.
In the end the scam. It is an aromatic herb that gives the dish a typical and characteristic flavor: if you don’t have it, don’t try to imitate its aroma by mixing other supposedly “similar” aromatic herbs. Substitute rosemary: just a finely chopped sprig. The taste is different, but only different, not worse, and in any case remains within the realm of Tuscan tradition.
- 220 g hulled spelled, soaked according to seller’s instructions
- 160 g dried beans
- 100 g pecorino cheese
- 60 g finely chopped raw ham
- 3 garlic cloves
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Let the beans soak for 10-12 hours, rinse them and place them in a not too large pot, cover them with 2 liters of cold unsalted water and add 2 cloves of garlic and 2 sage leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan and simmer until the beans are almost cooked, but still al dente: this will take 40 to 80 minutes, depending on the variety of beans and their age. .and soaking time. At this point, add salt to the water and complete cooking for the 10 to 12 minutes needed so that the beans are cooked through but still firm. Be careful with the salt, because this is the vegetable broth that will later be used to cook the spelled.
- Turn off the heat and remove the beans with a slotted spoon, removing the garlic and sage. Reserve about a quarter (25%) of the whole beans and mash all the rest with a fork until pureed. If you prefer, blend them with a little of the cooking water, but little and at low speed, so that it leaves some body and not everything is too liquid.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and fry the raw ham for less than 2 minutes. Then we remove the ham (reserve) and put in its place a clove of chopped garlic, a chopped sage leaf and a sprig of thyme. When the garlic has browned, add all the mashed beans and a generous half of the vegetable broth to the pan. Mix well and bring to a boil.
- Add the spelled (which you will have soaked for 20 minutes in warm water, or not, depending on the variety and the manufacturer’s instructions) and let it cook slowly, over medium-low heat and half covered, until it is perfectly cooked: it will take 40 to 50 minutes for hulled spelled, about 30 for pearled spelled. Gradually add more boiling vegetable broth when necessary: if it is not enough, add boiling water.
- Finally, add the whole beans that you reserved, the already fried ham and a sprig of chopped thyme. If necessary, add salt and leave on the heat for about 5 more minutes before turning off.
- Add the grated pecorino cheese to the spelled and bean soup (little by little and mixing carefully, so that it does not coagulate) and complete with freshly ground pepper and a splash of raw oil.