- 1 cup dried white cannellini beans, soaked overnight
- 1 fresh or 1 dried bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 ounces bacon or pancetta (optional)
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped medium
- 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- Pinch of red chili flakes
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
- 1 cup chopped winter squash, cut in bite-size cubes
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 head escarole, chopped lengthwise
- Parmesan rind (optional)
- Shaved Parmesan
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Drain the soaked beans and add them to a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Cover with water, about 3 inches above the beans. Add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the beans to a simmer and cook until tender, about 1½ hours, adding more water as needed, making sure they are always immersed. Season with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.
Place a large soup pot on medium heat and add the olive oil. Place the bacon, garlic, onion, celery, carrots and sage leaves in the pot, stirring occasionally for 10–15 minutes, until the vegetables become tender. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper, smoked paprika, chili flakes and canned tomatoes. Stir well. Add the beans, reserving their liquid. Pour in a total of 5 cups of liquid: half bean liquid and half water. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add the squash and Parmesan rind, if using. Simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes.
Turn off the heat and stir in the escarole. Let soup stand, covered, for 30 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper for your taste preference. Serve with shaved Parmesan on top.