Tuscan White Bean Soup
Growing up in a frugal midwestern family, we ate a lot of beans, which we didn't see much virtue in at the time. Now that we're older and exploring more traditional Mediterranean cuisine, we're rediscovering beans and how delicious they can be--in the right recipe.This riff on an Italian classic is simple and always delicious. This version is vegan, but it would not at all be out of character to render some diced bacon and use the fat to saute your aromatics, blending the crisp bacon back into the soup to finish. Many recipes also include a chunk of parmesan cheese rind boiled in for flavor, with grated parmesan added to thicken. And, you can replace soy milk with dairy half-and-half or cream if you prefer. Trust your palate!
- heavy sauce pan
- immersion or traditional blender
- 2 cans cannellini beans 15 oz,, drained and rinsed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallots, large chopped or finely sliced
- 1 leaf fresh sage
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 4 cloves garlic chopped or finely sliced
- 1/2 cup soy milk
- 1/2 tsp black pepper freshly ground
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt to taste
- croutons, chopped sun dried tomatoes, finely sliced basil, olive oil, or other garnish
- Place a sauce pan over medium heat. When warm, all olive oil, shallots, and garlic and cook until the shallots are softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to keep shallots and garlic from scorching.
- Add the beans and sage leaf. Stir to combine.
- Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until the garlic is softened.
- Remove pan from heat. Puree mixture with an immersion blender, being careful not to splatter hot liquid. Or, transfer in batches to a traditional blender and puree, taking care to cover its top with a towel and hold it while blending--hot liquids can cause it to pop off and splatter without caution.
- Return soup to pan (if necessary) and stir in soy milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Warm gently to serving temperature over low heat.
- Serve in bowls, Garnish with your croutons, chopped sun dried tomatoes, basil or other and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Soups are the ultimate in meals that use what you happen to have on hand. Ingredients and proportions are guidelines; soups are very forgiving for you to improvise. For example:
- If you eat meat, try dicing 4 strips of bacon, and fry until crisp. Remove the bacon and save to garnish the soup. Use 3 tbsp. of the fat to saute the shallots and garlic.
- Substitute chicken stock for vegetable if you prefer.
- Add a 1-2 inch piece of Parmesan cheese rind to the mixture while simmering to add flavor. Just remove it before pureeing the soup. You can also use grated Parmesan as a garnish.
- Puree the soup as much or as little as you like. It can be completely creamy or a little more rustic with some larger beans left intact.
- Speaking of beans, home cooked are always more delicious. 2 15 oz. cans is approximately equal to 1 to 1-1/4 cups of dried beans that will be cooked. Cook them a little bit softer than if you were using them in a dish where you wanted them to retain more tooth.
- Any white bean will work--cannellini, navy, small white beans--whatever's in the pantry.
- And, of course, you can always substitute butter for some part of the olive oil.