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Catholic Recipe: Legume Soup


  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pork fat
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 pound various pre-soaked beans and legumes (lentils, peas, wheat, beans, barley, etc.)
  • a few tomatoes (fresh or canned) or 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • seasoning (to taste, salt, herbs, etc.)


Serves: 6

Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Difficulty: • •

Cost: $$$$

For Ages:11+

Origin: Rome, Italy


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Pope St. Gregory the Great reigned from 590-604. For such an ancient Pope, we were duty bound to pick traditional dishes from Italian cuisine, colorful and bursting with flavor, whose origins are lost in the mists of time, drawing upon ingredients typical to the Mediterranean countryside. This soup, mentioned by Cato, dates right back to ancient Rome. It has survived the passing of centuries and is still popular for its dietetic and nutritional properties, making it a winter favorite.


In a heat-proof earthenware pot sauté the pork fat with the onion and garlic (remove the garlic from the pan as soon as it becomes golden brown). Add the beans and legumes and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes or paste and then fill the pot with cold water. Season and simmer uncovered. The soup is ready when enough water has evaporated away. Serve warm over slices of toasted country bread. If desired, add a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Recipe Source: Buon Appetito, Your Holiness: The Secrets of the Papal Table by Mariangela Rinaldi and Mariangela Vicini, Arcade Publishing, New York, 2000