1 bunch Swiss chard, washed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped canned tomatoes in their juice
5 cups water
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, drained
freshly ground black pepper
Cut off the leaves of the Swiss chard leaving the stalks. Slice the stalks into thin pieces. Cut the leaves into strips.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan over medium heat and gently fry the onions. Stir occasionally, until they are slightly soft. This should be about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped carrots and celery and cook until they are all soft, about 7 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Stir in the cut Swiss chard and season with salt. Add a lid to the pan and cook over very low heat for about 40 minutes, making sure it is stirred once or twice.
While the onion is cooking bring the water to boil and then add the barley and simmer over a low heat, with a lid partly covering the pan until it is tender. This should take about 35 minutes. Drain the barley but reserve the cooking water for later.
Add the beans and barley to the chard, stir in well and return to the heat for a couple of minutes. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the barley water and season with salt and pepper. Bring it to a simmer then turn off the heat and leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust its thickness, adding some more of the barley water if required.
Serve in bowls with freshly grated Parmesan.