Prepared properly, this soup is creamy, and rich in flavor. The key to adding a depth of flavor, is to cook the beans with flavoring ingredients first, and then prepare the soup itself. To serve this soup in the traditional Tuscan manner, you would spoon the soup over a slice of toasted Italian bread in a shallow bowl. You can use just cannellini beans, or a combination of beans as I have used in the photo. I used half cannellini and half borlotti beans for my soup.
Note: If you do not have time to cook dried beans, you can substitute a good quality canned cannellini instead. Simply follow the directions for the soup preparation, after the beans are cooked. Although the flavor will not be as developed, the soup will be tasty none the less.
Cook’s Tip: Buy loose dried beans from a busy market with a steady turnover. Look for beans with smooth shiny skins, and avoid beans that are off-colored and shriveled. Once home, transfer beans to a glass jar with a couple of chile peppers in it which will help prevent bug invasion. You can also cook extra beans and make a tasty white bean salad for the following day.
TO COOK THE BEANS:
4 Ounces Pancetta (You Can Use Bacon If Pancetta Is Unavailable)
1 Pound Dried Cannellini Beans (Or Combination of Beans), Soaked Overnight In Cold Water
1 Onion, Peeled, Cut Into Quarters, Leaving Pieces Attached
4 Medium Garlic Cloves, Unpeeled
1 Bay Leaf
FOR THE SOUP:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Cloves Of Garlic, Minced
1 Small Onion, Finely Chopped
2 Stalks Celery, Finely Chopped
2 Carrots, Peeled And Finely Chopped
1 Sprig Fresh Rosemary
Salt & Pepper
1.For the beans, Cut the pancetta into 1 inch thick slices, 2 inches long.
2.In a large stock pot, cook the pancetta over medium heat until golden brown in color, then add the quartered onion, whole garlic cloves, and cook a couple of minutes in the oil rendered from the pancetta.
3.Add the beans (drained), bay leaf, and 12 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook for about an hour and a half, or until the beans are almost tender.
4.Remove from the heat, cover and let site 30 minutes.
5.Drain the beans reserving the cooking water, and remove the bay leaf, onion, and garlic cloves.
6.For the soup, heat the oil in the stock pot, and once hot add the onions, celery and carrots and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
7.Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, then add the cooked beans, rosemary sprig, and 5 cups of the cooking liquid.
8.Cook on low for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove the rosemary sprig and discard.
9.Remove 1/3 of the bean mixture and pulse in a food processor until creamy.
10.Alternately, you could use a wand blender and blend part of the beans.
11.Return the pureed beans to the pot, and mix.
12.Serve the soup in bowls, with a drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkling of cracked black pepper on each.
13.Sprinkle a little fresh herbs just before serving.