As requested by Rebecca.
This adaptation was born out of one of those nights when you realize, a bit too late, that you don’t have everything you need to make what you thought you were making for dinner. Thankfully, it ended up being one of the rare times when it all turns out ok anyway, and in fact, was pretty much as good as the original.
The original is this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated — one of my favorite winter soups (how many times have I claimed that?). It is rich and flavorful and comforting (again, familiar adjectives when covering the topic of soup), with a little twist of excitement because of the way it’s served (I’ll keep you in suspense, or you can just read the last page of the book by glancing above at the photo).
The original recipe calls for canned beans — and you can definitely use them in a pinch, if you have them around. But I’m much more likely to have dried beans on hand, so I pre-soaked and cooked a huge pot of white beans early in the day. I used six cups in my soup (about a pound of dried beans) and froze the rest for a future use. I also — horror of horrors — didn’t have a single cup of chicken stock (or an emergency can of broth, for that matter), so I used water. While the soup with broth is more nutritious and rich, I really didn’t miss it in the final product. With the bacon, vegetables, and garlic, the soup was plenty flavorful without it.
We ate this for dinner one night (just me and Tim, the kids don’t do soup), and then I had it for two more lunches, and still froze a small portion for a quick dinner later this month. I.e., it makes a good bit (officially serving 8). A ton of bang for your buck.
Tuscan White Bean Stew
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Note that the beans must be pre-cooked. The rosemary is important, even though it only cooks at the end — but don’t go out and buy it just for this; either plan to use it in other recipes, or procure it from an herb-owning friend!
- 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/4″ strips
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 medium ribs celery, chopped into 1/4″ pieces
- 2 medium carrots, chopped into 1/4″ pieces
- 7-8 medium cloves garlic, minced (3 tablespoons)
- 5 cups water
- 6 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained (or 4 cans, rinsed well and drained)
- 1 large (or 2 medium) bay leaves
- 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, or 1 pound frozen plum tomatoes
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- baby spinach leaves, for serving
- country bread (day-old ok) and extra clove garlic, for serving
In a large soup pot or dutch oven, brown the bacon until crisp and fat is rendered; with a slotted spoon, remove bacon to a plate and reserve. Pour off all but about 2 Tbsp fat from the pan. Add the onion, celery, and carrots to the pan, and cook over medium heat until tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add bacon back to pan and stir to combine with vegetables. Add the water, beans, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the rosemary sprig and continue to simmer another 15 minutes. Remove rosemary and bay leaf, and add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, toast a thick slice of bread and rub with a clove of garlic cut in half. Put bread in the bottom of a soup bowl, then sprinkle baby spinach leaves on top. Ladle soup over spinach and bread. Top with a healthy drizzle of olive oil, and serve.