Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tuscan White Bean Soup [Rhonda]

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Time: 20 minutes prep, 10 minutes to simmer

Serves: 4

I know what you’re thinking. What’s with that Rhonda? All she keeps posting are soup recipes.

Fine then. Guilty as charged.

But when you crave a hearty peasant-style soup, this is a great one, taken from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s Weeknight Kitchen newsletter. It brings to mind our trip as a family to Tuscany when the boys were small: the quaint farmhouse we rented not far from Siena, the gentle rolling hills dotted with cypress trees and clay-tiled roofs, acres of golden yellow sunflowers and vineyards. OK, so we never once ate bean soup while we were there, but still…

Two recommendations for this recipe: number one, hang the expense and always always use real Parmigiano-Reggiano (throw the rind in the soup while it cooks, and sprinkle a spoon of grated cheese into your bowl for rich, nutty flavor). And two, keep in mind the soup’s character develops more fully by the second day.

Tuscan White Bean Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans (14½ ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, minced

1. In a large saucepan over medium low heat, warm the oil. When it is hot, add the pancetta and sauté until it browns slightly, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium, add the onion and carrots, and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomato paste, mixing well. Add the broth and the beans. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook about 10 minutes. Just before serving stir in the spinach (it will wilt from the heat). Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and the parsley, and serve.

Suggested soundtrack: Luciano Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma,” dramatic sure, but always amazing.

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