Well if the banner says it’s autumn, it’s autumn. So let’s make soup.
Soup really tests your cooking prowess because there’s always a way to make it taste better. Even if you’re not crazy about the results, you can fix them. For example: when Gina DePalma taught me how to make her lentil soup (which Smitten Kitchen featured on her blog) the key step was sizzling garlic in olive oil and stirring it in at the end. That’s the ultimate soup fixer-upper. Today’s soup comes to us from Chez Panisse Cooking and there’s a lot of flavor introduced up front so it doesn’t need much fixing at the end.
First, though, you have to soak the beans. When I knew I wanted this soup for dinner, I just poured some dried cannellini beans into a bowl and added cold water, leaving them at room temperature for eight hours or so. See?
Then, when it was time to start cooking, all I had to do was prep my mirepoix: chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Oh and two sprigs of rosemary. Boom.
The soup begins by sweating all that stuff in olive oil–with a pinch of salt–until it’s softened but not at all brown. (Most soups begin that way, actually.)
Then you take out your secret weapon: prosciutto bone and rind.
I scored this from Whole Foods and it was only $8; you can get it at the fancy counter where they sell slices of prosciutto, etc. A ham hock would work well here too in case you have a ham hock lying around. You add the prosciutto bone and rind to the vegetables along with the beans and canned tomatoes (the recipe calls for fresh but I didn’t like what I saw that day).
Then two cups of shredded chard:
Oh and I threw in a Parmesan rind because what the heck:
The recipe says to add eight cups of chicken broth here, but I just covered everything with water. I’m happy to use water in a soup like this instead of broth from a box; I feel like it makes it taste more natural. If you have homemade broth, by all means use it. Admittedly, this doesn’t look like much:
But then it simmers for almost two hours and it looks like this:
Have I mentioned how good this makes your house smell? The answer is: very good.
Now here I made a little mistake. You’re supposed to remove two cups of broth and beans to a blender to puree and then stir back into the soup. I used a hand blender:
And overblended things. All that did, though, was change the texture. It was creamier and more homogenous than if I’d kept more of the beans whole. No matter: at the end you cook pasta separately and then stir it in, so you get texture from that. And you adjust with salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.
It’s a hearty, cool-weather soup:
And tastes even better the next day.
The only thing is, those beans have a somewhat, ummm, gastro-musical effect so beware. Dried beans can do that. But it’s fall and you’re home watching TV anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. Enjoy your soup.
Recipe: Soup of Cannellini Beans with Pasta and Rosemary
Summary: Adapted from Chez Panisse Cooking.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic, sliced
- Two 3-inch sprigs rosemary
- 12 ounces dried cannellini beans, covered with cold water and soaked for 8 to 12 hours
- 2 cups chard leaves, ribs cut out, sliced
- 1 piece of prosciutto bone and rind (about 6 ounces), split
- 8 cups chicken broth (if homemade) or just use water
- 1 cup peeled seeded tomatoes (canned work fine too)
- 1 box shell pasta (conchigliette), boiled in lightly salted water for 7 to 8 minutes, rinsed (recipe says only use 1 1/4 cups of pasta, but I wanted more; up to you!)
- Salt and pepper
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- More olive oil for drizzling
- Warm the olive oil in a large saucepot, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and rosemary and soften over low heat, without browning, for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the beans, add them and the chard and prosciutto bone, pour in the broth and tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cover the pot. Taste the liquid after 30 minutes. If should be slightly salty from the prosciutto. If not, add a little salt to the pot. Cook slowly for about 1 hour and 10 minutes more or until the beans have softened throughout. (Note: I did the final hour uncovered, so the soup would concentrate; I think this was a good move.)
- When the beans are cooked (and you can only know by tasting: they should taste creamy), transfer 2 cups of the broth and beans to a blender and puree them thoroughly. Return the puree to the pot. Stir in the tomatoes and pasta; correct the soup to your taste with salt and pepper. Remove the rosemary sprigs, heat the soup thoroughly, and dish it up into warm bowls. Sprinkle the Parmesan and about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil over each portion at the table.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to use the Gina DePalma garlic trick here if you think the soup is lacking. Just slice up a few more cloves of garlic, add them to olive oil in a skillet, turn up the heat and when they turn golden stir the whole shebang into the warm soup. It’ll sizzle but that’s part of the fun.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 40 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6