From The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy by Domenica Marchetti
“Glorious” is the word for this cookbook. These sumptuous soups and stews are seasonal, even though we tend to think of soups and stews as hearty, wintry meals. In this cookbook, you will find a vast variety of seasonal ingredients that can be cooked together to make a delicious one-pot meal.
My favorite soup so far (I haven’t tried them all yet……but I plan to) is “Maccu.” This is also known as “Spring Cleaning Soup.” Doesn’t sound appetizing? Oh, just wait! I literally dream about this soup. Or is it a stew? I’m not quite sure, but whatever you want to call it, one thing is for sure. It’s delicious! The flavor is quite unique, and so is the tradition that goes along with it.
Traditionally, “Maccu” is a Sicilian soup served on March 19 to celebrate The Feast of Saint Joseph. It is also said that it’s just a good way for Sicilian housewives to empty their pantries of any dried legumes left over from the winter. Thus, they call it “Spring Cleaning Soup.” They were cleaning out their pantries. I had no idea that dried beans had a shelf life, but now I know that they do. I, too, have made this soup every March for the past few years to use up all the beans I bought during the pandemic. I think I was preparing for a famine, not a pandemic! I’m nearing the end of my supply of beans, but I’ll purchase whatever necessary to make this soup each year. It’s sooo good! This is going to be a tradition in this household for sure.
I must agree with the author that the fava beans are a must in this recipe. They need to be one of the beans included because they fall apart and melt, giving the soup a lush texture that will warm your tummy and soul on a cold day in March.
RECIPE: serves 4 to 6 as main course or serves 8 as first course.
2 1/2 cups mixed dried beans including 1 cup dried fava beans and 1 1/2 cups other beans, such as chickpeas, kidney beans, cannelloni beans, soaked overnight in water to cover
1/2 cup green or yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 quarts ( 10 cups) water
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 bunch swiss chard , washed and leaves cut into strips and stems chopped (kale will also do fine)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
Best quality extra virgin olive oil for serving
Drain the beans and make sure you remove the skins off the lava beans. Put the beans in a large Dutch oven or soup pot with a lid. Add the split peas, lentils and the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming any foam that forms on the surface with a skimmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are somewhat tender.
Add the celery, fennel, onion and chard and stir well to combine everything thoroughly. Pour in the 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and season with a little salt and hot red pepper flakes. Continue to simmer, partially covered, fo another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the legumes and the vegetables are very tender and the soup is very thick. Add more water if the soup seems too dense, but it should be nearly thick enough to hole a wooden spoon upright. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.
Ladle the soup in bowls and drizzle each serving with your best olive oil.
**NOTE: While the quantity of legumes is important ( total of 3 1/2 cups), use what you have on hand (clean out your pantry), EXCEPT please use 1 cup of fava beans. It really makes a difference.