Sardinia is one of 5 places (zones) around the world where people consistently live over 100 years old. Global pockets of health and well-being that have been designated Blue Zones. Where the world’s longest living cultures are supported by a lifestyle and culture that includes a plant-based diet that increase their chances of living a healthy, happy life. A traditional diet that emphasizes beans and legumes, vegetables, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil, cheese and leafy greens.
Especially wild greens like the herbs in s’erbuzu, a green soup with an intensely herbal aroma in a broth studded with bits of chewy pasta and creamy beans. Loosely translated in the local dialect, s’erbuzu means “lots of herbs” primarily from the mountainous regions of Sardinia. Traditionally made with foraged fresh herbs and greens s’erbuzu is a variation of a minestra di verdure (minestrone) an Italian vegetable soup. Sardinian cuisine makes use of ingredients that are local and in-season. With Spring just around the corner this would be a perfect soup for dinner using a combination of spring greens, beans, vegetables and rustic Italian pasta.
There are many versions of this soup and you can find them all over the internet. Key ingredients include a good extra virgin olive oil, fennel, garlic, rustic organic pasta (some recipes substitute lentils), pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese and a ton of fresh herbs and greens (around 6 cups), mostly bitter and foraged. Here is a recipe adapted from Dan Buettner’s Blue Zone research based on a family soup recipe from the island of Sardinia that may help you live to 100.
Sardinian s’erbuzu - Sardinian Herb Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
2 large cloves of minced garlic
pinch of dried oregano
16 ounces can crushed tomatoes
1 large fennel bulb ( about 1½ cups) cored and chopped; with fronds reserved for later
4-6 cups of leafy greens; washed and dried, roughly chopped
1 bunch of flat-leaved Italian parsley, roughly chopped
6 to 8 cups of vegetable, chicken broth or water
1 cup cooked small shaped rustic organic Italian pasta
15 ounces cooked white Italian beans
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of red crushed pepper
2 ounces Sardinian pecorino cheese finely grated or shaved
Warm olive oil in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Add the celery, fennel, onion, oregano, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes until vegetables are translucent and the aromas have scented the olive oil, about 8 to 12 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a medium gentle simmer, add parsley and beans. Cook stirring often at a low simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the al dente pasta and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with fennel fronds and pecorino and serve hot. Soup can be stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or the freezer for up to 3 months. The soup will thicken as it sits; add water or broth when reheating and an additional handful of fresh herbs before serving.