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White Bean Soup with Tomatoes, Herbs & Balsamic Vinegar

January 27, 2008

White Bean Soup with Tomatoes, Herbs & Balsamic VinegarOver the past few weeks, I’ve made this soup twice already – it’s that good! The soup by itself is very plain and basic, but it’s elevated tremendously by the addition of some herbs and garlic that are sauteed with olive oil and diced tomatoes. Served with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar in each bowl, the layered flavors in the soup are really wonderful. From the cookbook “Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen” by Deborah Madison.


2 cups white beans (cannellini or navy), soaked (see note below)

3 tbsp olive oil
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
bouquet garni: 1 celery rib tied with 5 parsley stems and 1 thyme sprig
chunk of a rind of parmesan cheese (optional) 1 1/2 tsp salt

For garnish:
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 can organic diced tomatoes, drained (or 1 cup seeded fresh tomatoes, if in season)
balsamic vinegar (for serving)


To soak the beans: there are two ways to do this. The first would be to place 2 cups of rinsed, picked over dried beans in a pot and cover with plenty of cold water; leave to soak for 6-8 hours or overnight. The method I usually use is to place 2 cups of dried beans in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let soak in that water for another 1-2 hours. You should get a yield of about 6 cups of beans.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion and celery and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the drained soaked beans, 10 cups of water, the smashed garlic cloves, the bouquet garni, and a chunk of the rind from a parmesan cheese rind, if you’re using. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium-low, and let simmer for about 1 hour.

Add 1 1/2 tsp salt, and continue to cook the soup for another hour. At this point, I usually like to blend the soup with an immersion blender until it’s pretty smooth; you could also remove a portion of the soup and do the same blending in a blender or food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the garnish: in a small saucepan, heat the olive oil until it’s very hot and shimmering. Add, all at once, the drained diced tomatoes, garlic, parsley, and sage. Stir for about 30 seconds, until the tomatoes are heated and the herbs are bright green.

Serve the soup with a good spoonful of the tomato/herb mixture in each bowl, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Makes about 8 generous servings.

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