There is so much more to preparing fantastic Italian soup than by throwing in some vegetables and stock. It is layered with a myriad of flavors and has the proper texture by adding ingredients in order. As my dad used to say….”Low and slow”. It is important to use the right stock, the freshest ingredients and correct seasonings. This soup will make you close your eyes and feel transported to the Tuscany hillsides. The flavor is outstanding and it is loaded with nutritious ingredients as well.
Place soaked beans in a medium sauce pan along with 4 cups of water and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat. Simmer for 20-25 minutes testing to see if the beans are just barely beginning to soften. Remove from heat and strain beans and bay leaf out of hot water into a bowl with 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside beans.
In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté the onion, celery, and carrots in the olive oil until the onion is just opaque. Add thyme, pepper flakes and garlic; sauté an additional 5 minutes.
Slowly add stock. Place the kale and/ or green cabbage, reserved beans, potatoes in the pot and bring just to a boil then reduce heat to low; Place lid on pot slightly ajar and slowly simmer 45 minutes stirring gently every 15 minutes to prevent any sticking. Test for softness of white beans. You don’t want the beans to fall apart.
Add tomatoes and peas. Place lid on pot slightly ajar and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf.
Lastly remove soup from heat tasting for seasoning and divide among bowls. Add chopped fresh basil and toasted bread slices to soup bowls and; let stand 10 minutes. Scatter cheese on top of each serving with ground pepper then serve.