Zuppa Frantoiana (the soup of the olive mill) is just one of many traditional and not so dishes we’ll be preparing at Villa Campestri. This recipe I first published in the New York Times back in January of 1985, which just goes to show how very long I’ve been focussed on extra-virgin. I’ve made some changes since, notably adding a cup of farro to the mixture.

1 cup small dried brown beans, preferably speckled cranberry beans
1 small carrot             
2 medium onions             
1 cup farro             
4 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (see note)
2 to 3 cups mixed winter vegetables, shredded or cut into bite-size pieces (should include, but not be limited to, kale, potatoes, carrots and pumpkin or winter squash)             
1 loaf Italian country-style bread, dense, grainy and preferably at least a day old Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cover the beans with water and soak overnight, or, if short of time, follow this quick-soaking method: Cover with water, bring to a boil, and boil 2 minutes. Then set aside to soak for 1 hour.
Drain the beans, and discard the soaking water. Place the beans in a large saucepan with the carrot and 1 onion. Cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until beans are very soft, from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the age of the beans. Keep a teakettle of water simmering, and add more water to the beans as they absorb the liquid. They should always be just covered with water but never swimming in it.
The farro should not need soaking but it should be rinsed briefly in a colander to get rid of any dust. In a medium saucepan cover the rinsed and drained farro with boiling water to a depth of 1 inch. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender.
When the beans are very soft, puree in a food processor or put through a food mill, together with their liquid. Drain the farro and add to the beans.
Chop the second onion with 3 cloves of garlic until finely minced. Over medium heat saute the garlic and onion in 1/4 cup of olive oil until soft. Add to the pureed beans and mix well.
Combine the winter vegetables with 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are soft. Add the vegetables and liquid to the bean puree and mix well.
Slice the loaf of bread thinly and diagonally. Halve the remaining garlic clove, and rub the bread slices well on both sides. Place half the remaining oil in the bottom of a heat-proof soup tureen, line with a layer of bread slices (you probably won't need all of them), and tip the remaining oil over them. Pour the bean puree and vegetables over the bread slices. Cook gently over medium heat until the mixture is bubbling and the bread is slightly crisp.

Serve immediately, passing more oil to pour over each serving.

YIELD: 8 servings

Note: Use the very finest and freshest extra-virgin olive oil that you can find.


Nancy Harmon Jenkins invites you to Amorolio/ For love of Olive Oil: An Extra-Virgin Intensive for Food Writers, Chefs, and Others Interested in Deepening Their Experience of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Villa Campestri, an elegantly restored Renaissance villa in the rolling hills of the Mugello, surrounded by ancient and modern olive groves

When: October 15 to 21, 2011

Where: Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort in the green rolling hills of the Mugello northeast of Florence

What: An unusual opportunity to expand and deepen your knowledge of extra-virgin olive oil: how it’s made, what’s good and what’s not good, nutritional values, how to recognize and describe flavors, and how to choose and use this remarkable ingredient in the kitchen and at the table. We’ll explore the world of super-premium olive oils that go “beyond extra-virgin,” a new category of high technical standards and outstanding sensory profiles.

This intensive five-day program has been developed by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, food writer and authority on the Mediterranean diet and the important role of extra-virgin olive oil, and is designed specifically for food writers, chefs and others interested in developing a more profound knowledge of extra-virgin. It’s a chance to explore one of the most widely used and most mysterious ingredients in the modern (and ancient) kitchen.

We’ll be headquartered at Villa Campestri, a splendid 13th-century retreat, a few kilometers north of Florence, high on a hill overlooking the Mugello (home of Giotto, Fra Angelico and the Medici, among others) where the Pasquali family, Paolo, Gemma and Viola, offer warm hospitality to their guests, harvest their own olives, and make their award-winning oil. Paolo is well-known to olive oil enthusiasts for his development of Oleoteca Villa Campestri and the OliveToLive program, a unique way to appreciate and understand high-quality, super-premium extra-virgin oils, featured at the Culinary Institute of America’s California campus in the Napa valley.

Fave e cicoria, a puree of dried fava beans with steamed pungent chicory and first-rate extra-virgin: An updated classic from Puglia in the heel of Italy's boot and a great way to show off the best of the best from the region that produces more extra-virgin olive oil than the rest of Italy combined. -- 

We’ll take part in the harvest of olives from Campestri’s extensive groves, then quickly press and taste the fresh new oil—an astonishing, truly mind-awakening experience.

We’ll be introduced, through guided tastings, to a surprising variety of extra-virgins from around the world, all representative of the super-premium 3-E program for olive oil excellence sponsored by the Accademia dei Georgofili in Florence, all illustrating the enormous range of flavors and aromas that extra-virgin includes.

We’ll have hands-on classes in the Villa kitchen to explore cooking with extra-virgin—braising, frying, sauteing, baking, even making ice cream, as well as other uses of extra-virgin—garnishing, for instance, and preserving.

We’ll visit an old-fashioned frantoio (olive mill) in the Mugello to see how olive oil was traditionally made, and we’ll learn about recent changes in olive cultivation and olive oil production that make fine extra-virgin more available for more consumers.

We’ll have meals in traditional restaurants in the vicinity to explore the culinary heritage of this fascinating region of Tuscany, known in Italy as the cradle of the Renaissance, and we’ll learn how other cooks use our precious ingredient.

A time-honored Tuscan favorite, pasta al forno (aka lasagna) is rich with meat, ragu, and, of course, extra-virgin olive oil. We make this and similar dishes at Villa Campestri.

We’ll also explore many other traditional food processes for which Tuscany is famous—wine, for sure (the DOCG Chianti Rufina district is just down the road), but also cheese-making, the production of salumi (cured pork products, especially fine mortadella di Prato), and the time-honored craft of baking in old-fashioned wood-fired ovens, as well as the production of traditional biscotti di Prato. If you have special interests, let us know—they will be accommodated whenever possible.

Cost: E 2,500 per person, includes pick-up and delivery at Santa Maria Novella station (the main train station) in Florence, six nights and five days at Villa Campestri, all meals, and transportation to off-site events and activities. (Reduced prices may be available for accompanying spouses or partners who don’t wish to participate in the full program. We are happy to include them on a first-come first-served basis as space is limited.)

For more information about AmorOlio: An Extra-Virgin Intensive go to: