The Occasion: Hearty weekend supper. Be sure to make enough for leftovers! Bean soup tastes great on Day One and even better the next day.
Why This Works: The secret ingredient is cheese rind. Yes, the stuff you usually throw away. Stop that! Save the rinds in your fridge and toss one or two into a slow-simmering batch of bean soup or minestrone. Fish it out right before serving and prepare to savor new depths of flavor in your bowl.
Fun Fact: There are many variations on this classic Italian peasant dish. Some are thicker/thinner, with/without meat, beans varying by region and season, herbs available, etcetera. So take that as license to make adaptations to the recipe based on your preferences and the contents of your pantry.
The Playlist: I learn so much when searching for blog post song pairings. For instance, I discovered this marvelous little number titled Pasta Fazoola from entertainers Gus Van and Joseph Schenck who killed it on the vaudeville circuit during the 1910s and ‘20s. Give a listen as you read on, or if you’d prefer to watch a video of Van & Schenck in action click here.
Be sure to put the final touches on each soup bowl Italian-style: Drizzle a thin stream of good olive oil in the shape of a C over top of the soup. Then sprinkle on a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese. (Upgrade to Parmigiano-Reggiano if you can – it really does make a difference.)
Click on the photos to enlarge them and read the captions.
Recipe source: Dean & DeLuca, with minor adaptations noted
Serves 8 as a main course
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 stalks celery, chopped coarsely
- 1 large onion, chopped coarsely
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ pound dried Soldier beans or cannellini beans
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups water
- 28-ounce can tomatoes, drained
- 1-2 rinds Parmigiano-Reggiano or other type of hard cheese
- 4 ounces very small cut tubular pasta, such as ditali
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- For Garnish: Extra-virgin olive oil, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and chopped fresh basil
- Although the original recipe does not call for it, I like to sort, rinse, and soak the dried beans for at least a few hours and overnight if possible prior to cooking the soup. Be sure to drain and rinse the beans after the soak and before cooking.
- Place the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Add the celery, onion, and cook until they're soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
- Add the beans, dried herbs*, broth, water, tomatoes, and cheese rind.
- Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft, about 1 to 2 hours (maybe even more depending on the age of your beans).
- When beans are soft, remove cheese rind from the pot. Also remove the cheesecloth pouch of herbs or bouquet garni if you used them.
- Scoop out about a cup of beans and set aside.
- Using an immersion blender inside the pot, blend the soup until it reaches the consistency you like. Add the whole beans back into the soup pot.
- Wait a minute to let the soup return to medium heat and add the pasta. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until pasta is done. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve in wide bowls, garnishing each serving with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, about a tablespoon of cheese, and about a teaspoon of fresh basil.