3 T. olive oil, divided
3 to 3 1/2 oz. ham, cut in a 1/3-inch dice
1 medium onion (about 8 to 9 oz.), cut into small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t. fennel seed, crushed
1/8 t. red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 lb. Great Northern beans, soaked overnight in cold water, drained and rinsed
1 lb. Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 c. pearled or semi-pearled farro
1 t. minced fresh rosemary
Olive oil for drizzling
In a soup pot, heat a tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ham and cook, stirring occasionally until browned in spots—about 3 to 5 minutes. Add another tablespoon of olive oil, then add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds, and pepper flakes along with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat in the fat. Reduce the heat and gently sweat the onions until soft and tender—adding more oil if the pan seems dry—about 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the beans and enough water to cover the beans by about an inch or so and bring to a simmer. Maintain a simmer, stirring occasionally and adding hot water as necessary to keep the beans covered by an inch of liquid. When the beans are about half cooked, season to taste with salt. Continue to cook until the beans are very tender—about 45 minutes to an hour total cooking time.
While the beans cook, prepare the squash and farro:
In a large bowl, toss the cubed squash with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet large enough to hold the squash in a snug single layer. Transfer to a 400° oven and roast, turning the squash once, until tender and caramelized in spots—about 30 minutes. Set aside.
Cook the farro in a pot of boiling salted water until just tender—about 25 minutes. Drain and spread on a baking sheet until needed.
When the beans are tender, add the squash, farro and rosemary, along with enough boiling water so that the soup elements are submerged and moving freely. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend. Taste and correct the seasoning. Ladle in to warm soup bowls and served drizzled with olive oil.
Maked 2 to 2 1/2 quarts. Recipe is easily doubled.
Note: The soup will thicken as it sits. Be ready to add more water when reheating on subsequent days.
(Recipe adapted from Winter Minestrone in One Good Dish by David Tanis)