Fassoulada (White Bean Soup)
8 fresh sage leaves
Two 3–inch sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 teaspoons olive oil
4 ounces lean ham – chopped
2 large onions – diced
1/2 cup minced Italian parsley
1 large garlic clove – minced
3 teaspoons minced fresh basil
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 – 16–oz cans crushed tomatoes with their liquid
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
3 cups water
The night before, place the beans in a pot and add enough cold water to cover them by three inches. Allow the beans to soak overnight.
Drain the beans and turn them back into a 5-quart pot. Sprinkle with sage and rosemary. Add enough water to cover by about 3–inches. Cover and bring to a boil – lower heat to a simmer and cook the beans for 1 hour. Drain the beans and return them to the pot.
Meanwhile – make the sauce. Heat the oil with the ham in a heavy 4–quart pot. Add the onions and parsley. Sauté the onions until golden. Blend in the garlic, basil and tomato paste. Add the tomatoes and cook the sauce for 5 minutes – uncovered. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomato sauce along with the 3 cups of water to the beans. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Partially cover and cook the bean/tomato mixture for about 1 hour or until the beans are very tender and have the consistency of a very thick soup. Stir often to check for sticking.