Poor Mans Bread, Kale, and Black Pepper Soup

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    3 to 4

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

At a restaurant in Siena a waiter told me: “In Florence they put bread in their soup and here we put soup on our bread.” Thus this wonderful thick soup, which you can prepare in advance, then reheat.


  • 1 pound young tender kale (Tuscan, black, lacinata, or dinosaur)
  • ounces pancetta, chilled or frozen
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt
  • 6 to 8 thin slices of dense, dry country-style bread, grilled or toasted, and rubbed with plenty of fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces grated pecorino cheese (about ½cup)


  1. Stem, wash, and finely shred the kale to make about cups. Use a large-hole grater to shred the pancetta to make about 3 tablespoons.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta, onion, and garlic and cook until soft and golden, 5 minutes. Add the kale, turning it over to mix well, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add 5 cups water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook slowly for about 20 minutes, or until the kale is very tender. (The recipe can be prepared up to this point 5 hours in advance.)
  3. About 20 minutes before serving, slowly reheat the soup to boiling. Season with salt to taste. Let simmer 5 minutes. Divide the grilled bread among 3 or 4 wide soup bowls. Ladle the greens and liquid into each of the bowls. Garnish each serving with a generous drizzle of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and 1 to 2 tablespoons grated cheese. Let settle about 10 minutes. Serve with extra cheese and pepper.