This soup always reminds me of a trip I made with some friends to Carrara to see the marble mines. It was winter, the sky was white and gray with fog and clouds, and the mountains of exposed marble were also white. None of us felt thrilled by all this cold and damp paleness; we were chilled and hungry, and there didn’t seem to be a place to eat. Finally we found a restaurant where some men were eating. There were no lights on, which should have told us it wasn’t open to the public, but we went in. In fact it wasn’t open, except to the mine workers, but we were graciously taken care of and served bowls of soup something like this one. Green Tuscan oil and crusty bread were placed on the table, as well as a bottle of Chianti, and it was one of those meals for which you are grateful from the bottom of your heart. It was exactly what we needed—warmth and nourishment, served with kindness and without pretension. When we returned to the street, we all suddenly became excited by the layers of whites and grays and the immense presence of the marble mountains.
The beans in this soup remain whole, the potatoes thicken the broth, and the herbs and vegetables contribute a splash of color. The vegetables can be prepared while the beans are cooking. This is the kind of soup that tastes better as it ages, and a bowlful can make a meal.