My Itinerary:


Pinquito Bean and Farro Soup with Arugula and Pancetta
Courtesy of Brigit Binns from "The NEW Wine Country Cookbook", Andrews McMeel Press, May 2013

Photo credit Colin Clark

Serves 6 - 8

Here is a comforting, rustic, and colorful soup richly endowed with the flavor and homey goodness of beans, cured pork, and greens. Pinquito beans are a specialty of Santa Maria; they look rather like pinto beans, but have a lovely, creamy texture and flavor. Beans from the current year’s harvest, generally available in fall and winter, require less soaking and cooking than year-old beans. There’s no way to tell, unless your supplier knows. If in doubt, soak for at least 6 hours, and start checking the cooking beans for tenderness at the 1-hour mark.

  • 12 ounces pinquito beans, ideally from this year’s harvest, or pinto beans from a reputable supplier, such as Ranch Gordo Beans, in Napa Valley
  • ½ cup farro
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 6 stems flat-leaf parsley
  • 4- to 5-inch sprig rosemary
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 small ham hock (6 to 8 ounces)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 4 ounces pancetta, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped arugula

Soak the pinquito beans for at least 2 hours and preferably 6 hours, or overnight.

In a small pot, cover the farro with water by about 4 inches. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25 to 40 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
In a large, heavy pot, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and sage and sauté, stirring, until golden. Drain the pinquito beans and add them to the pot along with 10 cups of water, the parsley, rosemary, bay leaf, and ham hock. Bring to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for 1½ to 3 hours, until very tender (depending on the age of the beans); add a little water occasionally, if the level falls below the top of the beans.

Stir in ¾ teaspoon salt, plenty of pepper, and the lemon juice. Discard the bay leaf, parsley, and rosemary. Remove about one-quarter of the beans and puree in a blender or food processor, along with a little of the bean broth, until smooth. Return to the soup pot and add the farro. (If the ham hock is tender enough, you can discard the skin and bones, dice the meat, and return it to the pot. Otherwise, discard the hock or cool, freeze, and use again.) Cover and keep warm over very low heat.

In a skillet, sizzle the pancetta until it is golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and stir into the warm soup. Stir in the arugula, taste for seasoning, and serve with a Pinot Noir from Paso Robles!