There’s nothing like Italian bean soup…or Italian anything, in my view. This one was a religious experience in my house. My mother made it for my father every Friday. I can still see him sitting at the head of the table, with a heel of Italian bread and his big bowl of soup. The combination of beans and sautéed vegetables created the perfect balance of energy and endurance, which he sorely needed with us kids around!
Makes 3-4 servings
2-3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, smashed, minced
½ red onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
Generous pinch each of dried oregano and rosemary
1/2 cup dried cannellini beans, sorted
4 cups spring or filtered water
1 bay leaf
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 small zucchini, diced
1½ cups cooked pasta, such as small shells, orzo, acine or elbows
1 cup diced dark leafy greens, such as kale, collards, or broccoli rabe
3-4 sprigs fresh basil, leaves removed, minced, for garnish
Place oil, garlic and onion in a soup pot over medium heat. When the onions begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery, a pinch of salt and sauté until shiny with oil. Add carrot, a pinch of salt and sauté until shiny with oil. Add dried herbs and beans. Add water, bay leaf, tomatoes and zucchini. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until beans are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
When the beans are tender, season to taste with salt stir in pasta and greens. Simmer until the greens wilt, 2-3 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with basil.
COOK’S TIP: To ensure the pasta is not mushy, cook it to 90% done and then stir into the soup. In those last minutes of cooking, the pasta will be perfectly al dente.