Tuscan white bean soup

    9 hours 40 min

    This simple, wholesome soup, typical of the cooking of Tuscany, makes a delicious starter. It is very easy to prepare, although you need to soak the dried beans ahead of time. Should you forget, you can use canned beans to make the quick version suggested in Some more ideas, below. Serve with warm ciabatta or rustic bread.

    11 people made this

    Serves: 4 

    • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 rashers lean smoked back bacon, rinded and chopped
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
    • 100 g (3½ oz) dried cannellini beans, soaked for at least 8 hours
    • 1.4 litres (2½ pints) hot chicken or vegetable stock
    • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
    • 100 g (3½ oz) Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
    • salt and pepper

    Prep:8hr10min  ›  Cook:1hr30min  ›  Ready in:9hr40min 

    1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the bacon and onion, and cook gently for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and red pepper, and cook gently for a further 2 minutes.
    2. Drain the soaked beans and rinse under cold running water. Add them to the pan together with the stock. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat so the liquid is simmering. Skim off any froth.
    3. Add the rosemary. Partly cover the pan and simmer for 45–60 minutes or until the beans are very tender.
    4. Remove about 3 tbsp of the beans with a draining spoon, place them in a basin and mash with a fork.
    5. Add the cabbage to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the rosemary twigs, if using fresh rosemary, then stir the mashed beans into the soup to thicken it slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.

    Some more ideas

    For a very quick version of this soup, use 1 can cannellini beans, about 410 g, drained and rinsed, instead of dried beans. Cook the vegetables and bacon as in the main recipe, then add 1.2 litres (2 pints) stock and the rosemary, and bring to the boil. Add the beans and simmer gently for 5 minutes, to heat the beans through. Continue from step 4 as above. * You can substitute dried haricot beans for the cannellini beans. * For a flageolet bean soup, replace the cannellini beans with dried flageolet beans. Soften the onion and garlic in the olive oil with 2 finely chopped celery sticks (omit the bacon and red pepper). Add the beans and the stock. Bring to the boil, then add 1 tbsp pesto sauce instead of the rosemary. Simmer for 45–60 minutes or until the beans are very tender. Remove about 3 tbsp of the beans and mash them. Instead of cabbage, add 100 g (3½ oz) frozen peas to the soup. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 3–4 minutes, then add 85 g (3 oz) baby spinach leaves and the grated zest of 1 lemon. Simmer for 1 minute or until the spinach has wilted. Stir the mashed beans into the soup, season to taste and serve.

    Plus points

    Dried beans are an excellent source of soluble fibre, which can help to reduce high blood cholesterol levels. * Savoy cabbage, one of the hardiest of all cabbages, is easily recognized by its crinkly leaves. It contains a number of different phytochemicals that appear to help reduce the risk of cancer.

    Each serving provides

    A, C * B1, B6, folate, niacin, calcium, copper, iron, potassium, zinc

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    Reviews in English (4)


    Thanks for the recipe, I just adored it. I tweaked a little just because I was trying to use up ingredients in the pantry and fridge (i.e. chicken, smoked sausage, anchovy and tomato paste) but needed a good base to go off of. Also wanted to use lots of garlic... So good! Baked a loaf of Irish brown soda bread to go with and couldn't have asked for a better or more nutritious meal.  -  28 Jun 2010


    Made this - added more water and a touch of chilli sauce. Really lovely soup/broth - recommend this for a winter warmer.  -  15 Jan 2017


    This was amazing. So easy to make and very comforting. For convenience I threw it all in a slow cooker on low and it was well appreciated after getting back drenched following a long bike ride. Recommended.  -  12 Jun 2016