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Zuppa Bastarda (Bastard Soup)

(recipe, Anne Bianchi)

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Bastard soup is so named because it uses black beans, which are called fascistini in honor of what Elda Cecchi calls "that black-shirted bastard who brought Italy to the brink of destruction during WWII." On the positive side, it is very easy to prepare. "All you need," she says, "are good fascistini beans, some stale bread, and, above all, some exceptionally good extra-virgin olive oil. Il gioco e fatto!" The game is won.


  1. 1¼ cups dried black beans, soaked
  2. 7 cloves garlic, peeled
  3. 1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
  4. 2 tsp. dried sage, crumbled
  5. 8 slices peasant bread (¾-inch thick), stale or toasted
  6. Salt to taste
  7. 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  8. Freshly ground black pepper
  9. 4 Tbsp. basil pesto


  1. Drain the beans and place in a soup pot along with 5 cloves of the garlic, the onion, sage, and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Heat to boiling over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 1½ hours. Add more water if necessary. Salt at the halfway mark.
  2. Cut the remaining garlic cloves in half. Using half a clove for each 2 slices of bread, rub the bread with the cut sides of the garlic until the bread is perfumed with the odor. Divide the slices among 4 bowls and top each with 1 Tbsp. of the basil pesto.
  3. Pour the bean soup into the bowls over the bread. Serve hot.