Creamy Tuscan Bean Soup with Pancetta-Apple Garnish
by Victoria Challancin
I am a sucker for bean soups. When the weather turns cooler, I actively look for new ways to prepare them. Practically every country embraces bean soup in some way as economical and substantial fare to warm up a cool day. And the health benefits are impressive: as one of the best sources of soluble fibers, beans are low in fat and high in protein, and rich in folic acid, copper, iron, and magnesium. Not bad, this humble bean!
When I saw Deborah Mele's recipe on Italian Food Forever, I knew I had to try it. I've made many bean soups in my life, but never one garnished with apple. Apple? As strange as it may sound, the combination of pancetta and apple (OK, I admit it, I had to use bacon as there was no pancetta to be found) works beautifully. The apple gives it a hint of sweetness that works well with the bacon and the beans.
Mele suggests that cheesy garlic croutons or a dollop of pest would work well as a garnish, if you aren't inclined to try the pancetta-apple version. But trust me, you should give it a whirl. You won't be disappointed.
Creamy Tuscan Bean Soup
(Recipe by Deborah Mele of italianfoodforever.com)
1 pound dried cannellini beans
2 ounces finely diced prosciutto
1 medium onion, peeled & chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt & black pepper
Prosciutto or Parmesan rind (optional)
1 apple, peeled and diced
4 ounces pancetta, diced (or bacon)
1 small onion, peeled & diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
Soak the beans overnight in a bowl of clear water. The next day, drain and place in a
saucepan, and add cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and
simmer for 15 minutes. Let stand covered for about 20 minutes, then drain.
Return the beans to the saucepan along with the prosciutto, onion, celery, carrot, garlic,
and prosciutto or parmesan rind if using. Pour in the chicken stock and then add water as needed
to cover the beans by 2 inches. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Continue
to simmer uncovered, until the beans are almost tender, 20 minutes or longer, depending on the
age of the beans. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and continue cooking until the beans are tender
but not mushy, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let the beans cool.
Once cooled, remove the rind, then place the bean mixture in a food processor or blender
and process until very smooth. Return the soup to the pot and re-warm.
Cook the pancetta, onions, and apple in the olive oil in a frying pan until tender and lightly
browned. Remove from the heat and add the parsley. Toss.
Serve the soup in individual bowls with a tablespoon or two of the garnish on top, and
drizzle with a little of the olive oil.
Fresh tomatoes from a Paris market
©Victoria Challancin. All Rights Reserved.