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This hearty soup is actually kind of a cross between white minestrone and pasta e fagiole, says Rach. It's really healthy and even better the next day, when it thickens more. Her grandpa would top the day-old soup with a fried egg and serve it for brunch. YUM!
Pro Tips from Rach: "Pearled barley in Italy is called orzo perlato, but it is often confused with orzo pasta, which is quicker to cook. Pearled barley cooks in medium boiled water with bay and a small onion, as do beans, with some salt. Cook until just tender. You can soak it first for several hours or overnight to speed the process, and can make it a day ahead, as well. As for the beans, you have the choice of dried or fresh. For the dried beans, soak them overnight or you can cheat by pouring over boiling water. Soak for 1 hour, then cook until tender, covering them with 3 inches of water and adding bay, onion and salt. I use pink borlotti beans, which I keep on hand cooked in jars or cans, as well as dried, for when I have more time as they have a more interesting texture to me. White beans or ceci (chickpeas/garbanzos) are fine choices for the soup, too." —Rach
Heat oil in large soup pot over medium to medium-high heat.
Add the fennel, onions, garlic, potatoes, leeks and carrots and season with salt, pepper, rosemary and bay. Add broth or stock and cheese rind and simmer 1 hour. Add beans and barley and simmer 20 minutes more.
Top with or pass with cheese and EVOO to serve, and charred bread and flaky salt (if using).