I got a little taste of sunshine when I drove with Ryan down to Fort Myers last week. I was ready to ditch my sweaters for a swimsuit and find the best coral nail polish to celebrate the warmer weather. And then I returned to Denver on Sunday. It has actually been in the mid 60’s, but yesterday took a little downturn and it was quite cold. I immediately wanted to change in my coral polish for some warm comfort food. I quickly realized that now is the time to embrace all of those warm and comforting winter foods, and decided to do so by making a big pot of soup. I had seen a recipe on Pinterest for Tuscan White Bean Soup and decided it was time to make it. I like this recipe because it is simple to cook but has some very assertive flavors.
It all starts with good pancetta. Despite what you’d think, pancetta is actually a pretty lean meat. The soup starts by extracting the flavors of the pancetta over a low heat. Aromatic vegetables like garlic and onions add to the mix and create rich, savory flavors. White cannellini beans are the star of this dish; packed with protein and creamy in texture. A rustic ingredient that feels more elegant with fresh rosemary and thyme. The secret to this soup (and most good vegetable soups) is letting a Parmesan rind soak in the soup while it cooks. The natural oils of the cheese give unbelievable flavors to the broth and help thicken it up in the process. Finished with a few homemade croutons, it is a quick dinner recipe that I will keep in my repertoire all winter long.
Makes: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 35 minutes
4 oz pancetta, sliced thick and diced
1 large vidallia onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
2 stalks of celery, grated or diced
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium fresh sprigs of rosemary, left whole
1 medium fresh sprig thyme, left whole
1/3 cup white wine
48 ounces chicken stock
1 Parmesan rind + 1/3 cup grated cheese
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tbs hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 heaping cup homemade croutons (optional)
* To make homemade croutons, dice up some day old bread into large, bite-sized pieces. I like for them to look homemade and have a rustic look. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until crunchy.
- Heat a large soup pot on low heat. Add the diced pancetta and cook for about 3 minutes, until the fats start to cook out of the pancetta.
- Add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery to the pan. If it seems a little dry, add a drizzle of olive oil. Cook for another 4 minutes on medium heat, or until the vegetables start to become translucent and caramelized.
- Add the cannellini beans, rosemary, and thyme. Give the pot a big stir, and cook another few minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Make sure to use a spatula to really scrape the bottom if any of the flavors have started to stick.
- Add the chicken stock and Parmesan rind (save the cheese), cover, and cook for about 20 minutes on medium-low heat. The broth should stay at a very low simmer and not boil.
- Remove the rosemary, thyme, and Parmesan rind from the soup. Add the hot sauce and whisk in the mascarpone to create a creamy texture.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. Serve each bowl with a few croutons and some grated Parmesan on top.
Other Soups to Savor: