Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuscan White Bean Soup

This smooth soup or velouté is the height of simplicity nevertheless any diner eating it will ask you for the recipe because its taste is soothing and delicious. You can find this recipe and a couple of hundreds more in my new book The Best Soups in the World. Tuscans favor a variety of small white navy beans, called cannellini beans, and use them to make a thicker version of this soup into a spread for crostini (toast points) as an antipasto. If you leave the carrot out, the soup will be whiter.
1 cup (1/2 pound) dried white beans
1 leafy sprig fresh sage
Salt to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fennel bulb (optional)
For the garnish (choose 1)
Twelve 1-inch squares thinly sliced pancetta, cooked until crispy
1 cup croûtons, fried in olive oil until golden
1/2 cup cooked tiny shrimp
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1. Place the beans in a pot with 1 sprig sage and cover with water by several inches, but first pull off two leaves of sage from the sprig and set aside for later. Bring to a boil over high heat, salt lightly, and then cook at a boil until tender, about 1 1/2 hours, replenishing the water when necessary.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then cook, stirring, the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and fennel, if using, until soft, about 6 minutes.
3. Drain the beans, saving 4 cups of the cooking liquid. Place the beans in a blender with the vegetables from the skillet and 4 cups of the cooking liquid. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a clean pot, add the 2 leaves of sage, and turn the heat to low. Cook until bubbling and hot, about 5 minutes. Serve hot with one of the garnishes.
Makes 4 servings


  1. We usually add rosmary (rosmarino) not chopped a little branch to pull out. Also we werve with bread fettunta. Have you ever tried what we call "zuppa lombarda".

  2. Zuppa lombarda is a much simpler bean soup and rosemary is a very typical addition in Tuscan cooking.

  3. Also try blending half of the cannellini. You will get more texture.
    Some here adds a little vinegar to the soup.