This soup is one of our family’s favourites. The recipe is adapted from Savoring Tuscany by Williams Sonoma, which is where I learned about the passaverdure, or food mill. By passing the beans through the food mill, the skins are removed, rather than chopped into sharp nasty bits as happens with the food processor or hand blender. It makes all the difference for a velvety, soft soup. I purée only about half the beans, and add the rest back into the soup to be enjoyed in their whole form.
It freezes extremely well, so I tend to double or triple the recipe while I’m at it. In that case, I will substitute a jar of home-made tomato puree for the tomatoes, which cuts down a step. It makes the soup a little more “tomatoey”, but we enjoy it that way.
- The Beans
- • 1 c (7 oz) dried cannellini beans
- • 3 c water
- • 1 fresh sage sprig
- • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- • 2 cloves garlic
- The Soup
- • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- • 1 yellow onion, chopped
- • 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
- • 2 oz piece pancetta
- • 1 clove garlic, minced
- • 2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- • 5 c chicken stock or water
- • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- • salt and freshly ground pepper
- • 1½ tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
- Prepare the beans (soak overnight)
- Pick them over, discarding any misshapen beans or stones. Rinse well, place in a bowl, and add water to cover generously. Let soak overnight. Drain, place in a large saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil over high heat and add the sage, rosemary and garlic. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer very gently until the beans are very soft, 1 ½ to 2 hours, depending on the age of the beans.
- Make the soup
- In a frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until fragrant, (about 3 minutes). Add the chopped sage and piece of pancetta and sauté until the pancetta is golden, (about 7 minutes). Add the chopped garlic and sauté until it begins to colour, (about 2 minutes). Remove the cooked pancetta and discard. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the tomatoes (or puree) and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft, (about 10 minutes).
- Remove the herb sprig and garlic from the beans and discard. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans in batches to a food mill fitted with the medium disk, held over a soup pot, and purée directly in to the pot, adding cooking liquid as needed to facilitate the puréeing. Add 2 c of the cooking liquid to the broth or water and set aside. (If you’re using the tomato purée instead of the tomatoes, reduce the amount of cooking liquid added, accordingly). Using the food mill, purée the tomato/onion mixture, letting it pass directly into the soup pot. Stir in the broth or water and place the pot over medium-low heat.
- Add the rosemary sprig, season with salt and pepper and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the soup has thickened and the flavours are blended, (about 30 minutes). Discard the rosemary sprig.
- Transfer the soup to a warmed tureen. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve at once.
- Cook Time: 180