Tuscan White Bean Stew

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

In our ongoing 2015 series of soups and stews, we wanted to revisit one we make regularly and love. We did this recipe a couple of years ago which was a riff on today’s Cook’s Illustrated stew. This recipe is found in THE Cookbook, as my brother John calls it – The Science of Good Cooking from Cook’s Illustrated. It’s chock full of just what it promises, cooking science! The 2013 version used Italian sausage as the meat flavoring and cabbage as the vegetable. Today’s version uses pancetta and kale. While I liked both of these spins on the stew, I think the perfect combo will be sausage and kale. We will report back!

Margaux says . . .

I love this stew, and was excited to make this variation! This stew is so hearty and delicious, I’ve made it with the sausage and cabbage several times. I agree with Aunt Suzy, though, that kale and sausage would be the perfect combo. I will definitely make it that way next time! I love serving this with a loaf of crusty sourdough and a green salad. Yum!

Ingredients

Table salt
1 pound dried cannelini beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon EV olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large onion, medium dice
2 medium celery ribs, ½-inch dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with a garlic press
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale,  stems trimmed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Black pepper to taste

Brining the beans: Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Alternatively if you’re in a hurry, bring the beans in the brining water to a boil. Turn off the heat and let stand for 1 hour.  For both methods, when done soaking, drain and rinse well.

Making the stew: Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. Remove all racks except the bottom one.
Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 6 to 10 minutes. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender (very center of beans will still be firm), abut 45 minutes.
Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the prepared greens and tomatoes. Cover pot, return to oven, and continue to cook until beans and greens are fully tender, 20 to 30 minutes longer.

Remove pot from oven and submerge rosemary sprig in stew. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over toasted bread, if desired, and drizzle with olive oil. Alternatively serve with a nice crusty baguette.