Tuscan bread soup with white beans & kale: 67 cents/serving

During the late-summer months, panzanella (bread salad) or pappa al pomodoro (bread soup) made with day-old bread and tomatoes and basil from the garden is a default weeknight meal for us. It’s light yet satisfying, and practically free. This is my attempt at a winter version, using both the innards of the bread bowls I made for roasted garlic soup and the general flavor profile of spicy kale and sausage soup. It’s considerably more expensive when not using produce from the garden, but well worth the effort. In fact, I almost like this version better than the original one with the sausage.

It’s up for debate whether this makes 4 servings or 6, so I decided to split the difference and leave it at 5.

• 1 bunch kale (lacinato kale would be best, but Fred Meyer only carries curly kale), large ribs removed, chopped: $1.49
• 2 T canola oil: 6 cents
• 5 1/2 cups cheese broth*, vegetable or chicken broth, or water (I used half cheese broth, half turkey stock): $0
• 1/2 medium onion, chopped: 13 cents
• 1/2 cup dried cannellini or other white beans, soaked for at least 8 hours: 10 cents
• 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped: 3 cents
• 1 large celery stalk, chopped: 9 cents
• 2 dried bay leaves: 1 cent
• 1 14 1/2-oz. can petite diced tomatoes: 64 cents
• 2+ cups (depending on how liquidy you want the soup; more bread for less liquid, less bread for more liquid) stale sourdough or country bread, torn into rough 1-inch pieces: 11 cents
• 2 oz. Parmesan, grated: 70 cents
• Salt to taste: 1 cent
• 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes: 1 cent
TOTAL: $3.38/5 = 67 cents/serving

*If you buy real Parmigiano Reggiano, or know someone who does, SAVE THOSE RINDS! They can be accumulated in the freezer. Some stores even sell the rinds alone. Add about a quart of water per ounce of rinds and simmer the heck out of those suckers—you’ll know they’re done when you fish part of a rind out and it’s absolutely tasteless. Freeze the resulting cheese broth for use in soups and Italian pasta dishes.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot with a lid. Add the onion, carrot, celery, about 1 tsp salt, pepper flakes, and bay leaves, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook (the idea is to sweat the vegetables, not cook them) for about 8 minutes. Add the chopped kale, stir well, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes, until the kale has completely reduced. Add the drained beans, diced tomatoes with juice, and broth or water, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender.

Meanwhile, if the bread isn’t stale to the point of being hard, dry it in a 250-degree oven until it is.

Once the beans are tender, gently fold in the bread. Let it sit for a couple minutes to soften, then serve with grated Parmesan sprinkled on top.

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