Like so many other cities in Italy, Perugia (home of Italy’s famous chocolate industry) has its own unique cuisine and dialect. While visiting this lovely hilltop town last year, we stumbled across a tiny restaurant named Fontanella Di Porta Sole. The sign saying that they have served “cucina perugina” since 1940 caught my eye. That it was off the main tourist streets of this popular destination made it all the better.
At the restaurant, I asked about this strangely named dish, ’mbrecciata, and when my ears heard “lentils”, I was sold. While eating it I could swear I tasted pork, chicken or perhaps pancetta in the background. Upon returning home, I e-mailed Fontanella Di Porta Sole to ask them about the recipe. I was very surprised to learn it was made up entirely of beans, ancient grains, water and some herbs.
This recipe will make a big pot of soup that can be eaten for several days. The beans and grains will need to soak overnight, so start the day before.
Ingredients and Directions:
- 2 cups mixed beans (such as a 13-bean soup mixture from Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 cup ancient grains (I used a combination of farro, hulled barley and spelt)
- 2 peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed with the side of a knife
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 or 2 generous sprigs sage
- 1 broken dried chili pepper or a pinch of red chili flakes
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Place the mixed beans and grains in a pot. Cover with water twice the depth of the beans and grains. Cover and soak overnight.
- The next day, drain in a colander and lightly rinse the mixture with water. Rinse the pot and return the bean and grain mixture to the pot.
- Add the smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, rosemary, sage, chili flakes, 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover the mixture with twice the depth of water.
- Bring to a high simmer on medium-heat and then turn the heat down to low. Cook until the beans and grains are falling apart. Depending on the age of the beans and grains, this could take 2-4 hours. You will probably need to add a cup of water every once in a while as it cooks. Stir occasionally to avoid the mixture from burning on the bottom of the pot.
- As you cook the mixture, take a wooden spoon and smash the mixture against the side of the pot to break up the beans.
- Once cooked to a soupy porridge with some of the bean and grain texture remaining, season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Simple!