Category: Starters

A Bean & Greens Soup

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March came roaring into our neighborhood today, letting us know that the winter season is not yet done. I needed a foil to ward off the wet cold and snow, so soup is always a go-to solution. No matter what the weather, a hot steamy bowl helps push back unexpected cold and wind on March days like today. Although when the weather turns hot and humid, a nicely chilled bowl with a touch of spice—gazpacho comes to mind—can cool things down.

So today, in early March where winter continues to hang around, I am sharing a recipe that is always at the ready whenever needed to keep us warm and help us get past the end of the winter season.

This bean and greens soup recipe is not like its more complicated cousin the Pasta e Fagioli recipe posted in February 2015, but instead this simple recipe requires only a few ingredients and offers flexibility to substitute depending on what you have on hand and what is available at the market. For example, I prepared this soup using cannellini beans and young organic dandelion greens, although in the past I have used butter beans or chickpeas, escarole or spinach. You get the idea!

There is always soup stock in my freezer, although using only water will work just as well. No hard and fast rules here, just a classic example of cucina provera, combining a few basic ingredients to achieve a hearty, warming pot of soup.


Bean & Greens Soup

Ingredients (serves 4)
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
1 large onion, halved, sliced into thin half rounds and separated
1 bunch of greens, washed well in cold water and roughly chopped (many options)
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained (many other options)
5 cups of vegetable stock plus 4 cups of water, or just all water
Salt, pepper, and red chili flakes
Toasted bread, minced parsley, grated cheese, olive oil to finish

Tear several thick slices of a rustic bread or baguette into bite size pieces, drizzle with a little olive and sprinkle with a little salt. Place in the oven under the broiler to crisp and lightly char. Set aside to be used for serving.

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, warm ¼ cup of olive oil until it sizzles but is not smoking. Add the sliced onions, season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes, stirring to coat with the oil and combine with the spice. Continue the sauté, stirring frequently until the onions begin to soften but not brown. Add the garlic, again stirring to coat and combine.

Add the greens, mixing into the onions and garlic and continue the sauté until the greens begin to wilt.

Add the stock and water, raise the heat to a boil, then lower to a gentle simmer, occasionally stirring until the greens are softened.

Add the beans, stirring them into the pot, then check and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Simmer for just a few more minutes, then serve straightaway ladled into warm bowls topping each with some toasted bread, minced fresh parsley, a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkle of grated cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or one of many aged pecorino choices available. This soup, like most soups and stews, is better served the next day allowing the flavors time to mingle over night.


Whenever you serve it, this soup recipe is a good one to have on hand for days just like today. Enjoy!

Be well. Eat Well.


Good food doesn’t have to be complicated. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”—Leonardo daVinci




A Tomato Soup Variation

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You say Toe-May-Toe, I say Toe-Ma-Toe … A Tomato Soup Variation.

At this time of the year there is always a soup or stew, ready on our stovetop, to enjoy with lunch or dinner as a foil to the winter’s chill. It seems to me that one of the quickest and simplest soups to make is a tomato soup because it requires very few ingredients and for the most part can be prepared entirely from items that are on hand in your refrigerator and pantry.

One interesting observation I have made is how many variations of tomato soup there actually are. Besides all the commercial food packagers who try and entice us to purchase one of their canned soup offerings that line the grocery store shelves, many cookbook authors and recipe developers include variations of the soup either in print or on the Internet.

Some tout their recipe is the best tomato soup you will ever taste, while others claim theirs is the only recipe you’ll ever need! Some are creamy, while others are chunky. Some are spicy, while others are thickened with bread, such as the Italian variation Pappa al Pomodoro. It seems there is no right or wrong recipe as it all comes down to a matter of personal taste.

With that said, after much trial and error, with an extra pinch of this here and a little tweak there, the following is the tomato soup recipe I now prepare as the base from which to build a meal–either by garnishing the soup in a variety of different ways (for example, by floating in a couple of jumbo shrimp first sautéed in butter, garlic, and Aleppo chili flakes), or simply accompanying a steaming bowl with a grilled cheese sandwich. What I like about this recipe is that the end result becomes a velvety broth with a rich, light smoky depth of flavor.


A Tomato Soup Variation

Ingredients (serves 4)
Olive oil
Bacon or pancetta
1 large onion, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 generous tablespoon rice (used to thicken)
3 to 4 fresh thyme sprigs, tied together
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon pimenton
3 cups tomato puree with juice
3 cups vegetable stock or water
½ cup Half & Half
2 tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper to taste

In a large stockpot over medium high heat, warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in which to render and crisp 3 slices of bacon or diced pancetta. Set the rendered meat on a paper towel to drain, then finely dice and set aside.

Render bacon or panchetta

Add the onion and whole garlic to the rendered fat and sauté until it begins to lightly color and soften.

To the sauté add back the diced bacon along with the rice, thyme, bay, pimento, salt and pepper, stirring to coat and combine.

Flavoring base

Add the tomato and the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and allow the soup to thicken, occasionally stirring for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and use an immersion mixer to finely puree the soup to a smooth consistency. Ladle the soup into a fine mesh strainer and using the back of the ladle, press the soup through the strainer, removing any remaining solids to obtain a velvety smooth broth.

Soup ready for immersion mixer

Final strain

Return the strained soup to the pot over low heat and add the butter and Half & Half, whisking to thoroughly incorporate. Check and correct the seasoning as needed and serve the soup in warm bowls as is, or garnished as you like, or even accompanied by that grilled cheese sandwich.

Speaking of that, a large bowl of this tomato soup and a thick grilled cheese sandwich paired with an ice cold bottle of champagne will be how we plan to welcome in the New Year!

Tomato soup, grilled cheese, champagne!

Happy holidays and good health in the coming New Year.

May you continue to Eat well and Be well.


The dishes of our childhood stay with us forever.