White Bean Soup with Wilted Greens / by Cynthia Raub

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white bean soup

I love soup! I love lunch!!! The idea of a Soup and Salad lunch is lovely -- to eat a light meal during the day that won't weigh you down so you can continue to kick ass the rest of the day. I'm normally not that sensible, as my meal preferences skew towards heavy and regretful with a generous serving of guilt. Soups like this one, a White Bean Soup with Wilted Greens are deceptively delectable and satisfying despite its humble ingredients. Soups are easy and wholesome weeknight meals that transform into delicious leftovers for lunch the next day. Because I was so proud of myself for not starting this soup with browned sausage, I added the option of fried pancetta and pancetta-fat torn croutons at the end. Because as much as I love soup and lunch, I really REALLY love cured ham products and bread fried in oil. The soup alone is hearty and delicious; but when I prepared this for Amy and Christine, I felt compelled to finish it with additional optional garnishes to make it special.

Notes: I have made this soup numerous times and every time, it's a little different. This is the amazing thing about the forgiving nature of soups! I've made it with beans I have cooked, canned beans, water, chicken stock; I have added sausage, and most of the time I don't have a hard cheese rind to add- but it's always delicious despite the small changes! The acid at the end can also be changed to white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. This soup tends to thicken up as it sits. When reheating leftovers, add a splash of broth or water to thin out. To make this vegetarian, omit the pancetta croutons and perhaps make olive oil and garlic croutons instead. Additionally removing the parmesan and rind would make this recipe vegan.


Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6 large meals, 8 smaller portions

White Bean Soup with Wilted Greens
8 tablespoons olive oil plus more for serving
1 cup onion (small dice)
1 cup celery (small dice)
1 cup carrot (large dice)
5 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added white beans (Great Northern, Cannellini or Navy beans all work here), rinsed and drained
1 (1 1/2-ounce) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (optional)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
4 cups of greens (kale, escarole, or spinach)
Lemon juice to taste
Shaved fresh Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary for garnish

Pancetta Fat Torn Croutons
6 oz diced pancetta
1 sprig thyme (optional)
2 crushed garlic cloves (optional)
4 loose cups of a rustic bread (Ciabatta, Pugliese, etc.) torn into 1 inch pieces
Olive Oil

Tear 1 inch pieces of bread from a loaf of bread - about 4 loose cups, set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add celery, carrots and garlic, and sweat for 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth, beans, herbs (except chopped rosemary), and cheese rind. Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, sauté the pancetta, crushed garlic clove, and thyme sprig in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is browned. Remove pancetta to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve fat, thyme and garlic in the pan.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pancetta pan at medium-high heat. Add torn bread in a single layer to the pan. Toss the bread frequently, exposing all sides to the fat and heat, browning the bread until golden. Cooking the croutons may have to be done in batches, depending on the size of your pan. Add oil each time, enough to cover the bottom of the pan lightly, for every batch. Sprinkle croutons with kosher salt.

Add greens to the soup and simmer until the greens are wilted. Taste, adjusting salt and pepper to your palette, then finish with a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness. Remove and discard parmesan rind; ladle into a bowl, finish with a drizzle of nice olive oil, chopped rosemary, croutons and pancetta.

Recipe developed from:
30-minute Tuscan White Bean Soup
White Bean Soup with Escarole