Grandma Menna’s Kitchen: bread soup

Bread soup, also known as black cabbage and beans soup, it’s one of the most popular dish in Tuscany, during cold months, it is an old recipe, typical of farmers of all times, one of those dishes you could make each and every single day for months!

It wasn’t so typical at home when my grandma was a child, as her dad didin’t liked it too much, but it was extremely appreciated by her mum and all her family. She used to make it with black cabbage, but she loved it with chard too, as the soup flavour gained sweetness and softness.

Making this soup has been a dive into the past, back to the end of the Nineteenth century, because this white and blue soup tureen belongs to Tommaso and Adele, my grandma’s grandparents, who inherited it when they left the house where they used to live with Tommaso’s brothers and sisiters and Maria and Giuseppe, the oldest ancestors we can reach in my grandma’s memories.

I’ve been witness of a powerful stream of consciousness, where pepole life were told through their objects and trasures, while my grandmother was making this dish.

This white and blue soup tureen was part of Tommaso and Adele treasure, together with a Chinese service that is still showing its past glory into my grandma cupboard.

While grandma was telling me stories about old houses built over Etruscan tombs used as cellar, of long trip to Livorno, on the coast, to visit the wonderful aunt Giulia, Tommaso’s sister, of farmers who used to change house and farm every few years, until they built the house where we are still living, in 1926, I was mesmerized by her hands, that were making this soup with experience.

::::: BREAD SOUP :::::


  • black cabbage, a bunch
  • spring cabbage, a quarter of a cabbage ball
  • savoy, a quarter of a cabbage ball
  • carrotts, 2 medium
  • potatoes, 3 medium
  • previously boiled beans, with their cooking water, about 300 gr (dried beans weight)
  • red onion, ½
  • tomatoes, 3
  • sliced stale bread
  • extravirgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • pork bone to flavour the soup, or 125 gr of diced bacon

First thing to do: boil your beans in a large pot with plentiful of water, so that you’ll be able to use bean cooking water to make your bread soup.

Chop finely onion and sautée it with olive oil in an large pot. If you don’t have a pork bone to let simmer in the soup, this is the moment to add diced bacon, to give a whip of taste to the soup. When the onion is golden, add carrots and potatoes, peeled and diced, the three kinds of cabbage, sliced into stripes not too thin (especially as regards black cabbage, it should remain visibile into the soup). Lately, add diced tomatoes.

Cover all the vegetable with beans cooking water, season with salt and pepper and let simmer for about 45 minutes, adding hot water if needed: it should remain quite watery.

Pass through a vegetable mill 2/3 of beans and add bean puree to the soup: let it simmer for other 30 minutes.

At the end, add leftover beans, check the flavour and add salt and pepper in needed, then remove form the heat.

Into a large soup tureen make a layer with stale bread slices, cover with some ladles of soup (vegetables and broth) and keep on going until you finish all the ingredients. Set aside for a few minutes and serve hot or warm.

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  1. says

    I love the stories you include with your wonderful recipes. Reminds me of all my relatives cooking and happy in the kitchen when I was a child. I miss those days.


  2. says

    Hi Juls, just love this one and can imagine your Grandma making it. The Etruscan tombs sound fascinating too? Where any of them decorated inside? Sending warm wishes for the Holidays from Montecito, Cali



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