Ribollita-Inspired Bean Stew

The Beans
1 cup dried white beans

Tomato Base
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Bean Stew
4 oz (100g) chopped or cubed bacon
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, chopped
300g fresh spinach leaves
4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Serves 4

Soak white beans in water overnight, or for at least 4 hours. After soaking, boil them in slightly salted water for about 30 minutes. Make sure not to overcook them. They should remain a bit of a bite.  Set aside.

In a deep pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic  and fry until onion is golden. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a big soup pan, fry the bacon cubes over medium heat. Once they start releasing the fat, stir in onions, garlic, and carrots. Fry for about 5 minutes or until onion is golden and bacon becomes crisp. Add the tomato mixture and stir while bringing to a boil. Now add beans, spinach and cheese. Season with salt, pepper and herbs. Bring to boil again, then let simmer for about 30 minutes.

Serve with Ciabatta bread.