Tuscan Bean Soup

Cook Date: November 21, 2018

For the first time in years we weren’t hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house. That gave me time to prepare a nice hearty soup/stew for dinner the night before Thanksgiving.

Last weekend we were FaceTiming with our son and grandsons who live in Chicago – Mama was at a rehearsal. We were mostly chatting with the four and two year olds while Papa was making a white bean stew. He told us it was one that I made for them a couple of winters ago. I couldn’t remember it exactly – there are a LOT of white bean soup recipes around – but I was intrigued by his using a small bit of parmesan cheese rind in it. I remember using that in Minestrone soup but not the one he was making. He also added water for the liquid  and I thought, hmmm; that doesn’t sound like me; wouldn’t I have used chicken stock?  

I hadn’t made a bean soup/stew dish for a few years so I knew it would soon be on the menu. I spent the first half of the week pondering and searching through my recipes but just couldn’t find anything that matched what he was making. I found slow cooker recipes, stove top recipes, and oven simmered recipes, but nothing in the pressure cooker like he was making. So,  I texted him and asked him to text me a picture of the recipe. That solved the riddle; that past winter I searched expressly for a vegetarian option and found this recipe from Dad Cooks Dinner  Mike Vrobel is a go-to guy for recipes so I used that.

I found things I liked in that recipe and a couple of others I’ve made.  First was a basic white bean and kale recipe from a a healthy-workplace initiative at my old job a few years ago.  Next a slow cooker recipe from Cooks Country (recipe may be behind a pay wall) added some flavors that improved on the simple original. Finally I used the Dad Cooks Dinner vegetarian-version recipe for pressure cooking steps and the parmesan rind.

I pulled it all together in a blended recipe you can find here.

Let’s get started by brining some Great Northern beans overnight. You can  use Cannellini beans also.  

This time of year it seems like every dish starts with mirepoix: carrots, onion, and celery. With kale and garlic for later in the dish.

Vegetables for Tuscan bean stew
Vegetables for Tuscan bean stew

 We start off with a big difference from the vegetarian version the kids made the week before: Pancetta! It’s diced and gently sautéd until crispy. We need to be careful, it will go from perfectly crispy to burnt in the blink of an eye.

The pancetta is sautéing and everything else is lined up.

Once the mirepoix is finished, we add the beans and give it a big stir.

Mirepoix and Great Northern beans for Tuscan bean stew

Now we are ready to add the liquids and aromatics. I had time to take another close up just because I was fiddling with the camera

Next set of ingredients for Tuscan bean stew

While everything cooks under high pressure for 20 minutes I cut the stems out of the kale and chop into one-inch pieces.

Kale for the Tuscan bean stew

After a quick pressure release we taste and adjust seasoning, then drizzle in a bit of balsamic vinegar for brightness. If the broth isn’t thick enough for your liking, mash a few beans agains the side of the pot. Finally toss in the kale and simmer for about 5 minutes until the kale is tender. 

Ah, delicious goodness ready to be served. (I actually took the picture after we both had two helpings). The recipe makes plenty of soup.

Yummy Tuscan bean soup.

Carla and I watched the four-part Netflix series “Fat, Salt, Acid, Heat” featuring Samin Nosrat – a classically trained chef. She travels to a few different countries to demonstrate how each of those four elements of cooking works. She is very engaging and her enthusiasm is contagious. It the best shows about food I’ve seen in years.  She is so fun I’d love to hang out with her sometime. Since watching, I’ve been mindful of the things I cook in a whole new way.  One of the things she did was demonstrate how dried beans transform during the brining and cooking process. I totally stole the idea of this picture from her.

Dry, soaked, and cooked Great Northern beans.

Carla whipped up some corn bread to go with dinner. Another great choice would be a thick crusted French bread.

Dinner is served. We sprinkled a bit of grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese on top. A drizzle of nice olive oil would be good as well.

Dinner is served. Tuscan bean soup.

This gets a rare 5-star rating. It was just terrific. Carla absolutely loved it. It’s a perfect dinner for a cold, blustery late Fall or Winter dinner. 

RATING: ★★★★★

A note about the pictures – I used my Sony A7R3 with a Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens attached. This lens is amazing but it takes some work to master it. I have a long way to go. I am astounded by the shallow depth of field you can get with it. Take a look at the small area in focus in the shot with an F/2.8 aperture. 

Shallow! depth of field with Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens at f/2.8

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