As soon as it gets cold, I roll this out. And last night we started the wood stove for the first time this season — a record, since usually we are cranking it by mid-October. There are lots of ways to make a good bean soup. This one is a fave because it’s easy and quicker than most — the trick here is to use beans that are already cooked. It’s a bit “Tuscan,” a bit “Navy,” and a lot delish. I use what I have in the refrigerator, which makes it come out a bit different each time I make, although of course you can go out and buy all the ingredients and make it the same each time. The one constant is fresh rosemary — it really makes this soup.
2 T olive oil
½ pound Canadian bacon, sausage, Kielbasa, chorizo, or a combination, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery chopped
½ C fennel ribs or bulb chopped (optional)
1 C carrots, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
1 t grated lemon peel
fresh ground pepper
½ C white wine
1 C tomatoes (optional)
4 C chicken or vegetable broth, preferably home-made
4 C white beans – navy, cannellini or great northern, from 2 cans or home-made
2 t sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
salt to taste
1/4 C chopped parsley
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add meat. Saute until caramelized; add onions, celery, fennel and carrots. Cover and sweat until vegetables are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary, lemon peel and black pepper. Cover again, turn down heat and continue sweating until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. This step will allow all the flavors to mingle and meld. Remove cover, turn up heat and add wine to deglaze. Cook quickly until liquid has evaporated and ingredients are caramelizing. Add tomatoes if using and chicken broth and turn down heat again. Bring to a simmer; add beans and their liquid. Simmer gently about 15 mins. Add vinegar, taste for seasoning, adding salt as needed. Before serving, add chopped parsley. The soup can be made ahead of time and reheated. It will keep refrigerated for a week. It is best if not frozen, as the beans will get mushy.
Variations include adding chopped greens, skipping the meat and using smoked tofu instead for a vegetarian version. It’s hardy enough to act as a main course, so enjoy!