By now, you can tell I love a good soup. Yes, I do. This one is a classic bean soup that can be made vegetarian, or with pancetta, Italian sausage, or ham for a lovely savory meal.
Here are my chef's tips: If you use canned beans, rinse and drain them completely. I would even go one step further and boil them in water for 1-2 minutes and drain again to remove some of the gassy starches. Also, if you're making this as a vegan or vegetarian soup, saute your vegetable and aromatics (garlic, onions, tomatoes,etc.) well and first to pop the flavors for the soup. Plus, sprinkling a little white balsamic vinegar can add another dimension of flavor.
3 - 14 or 15 oz cans white cannellini beans (Sub: white northern or kidney beans) Or, 6-7 cups, pre-soaked, dried white beans.
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling 2 large celery rib, diced small
1 medium onion, diced small (optional)
1 carrot, diced small
4 oz pancetta * optional (Sub: bacon, diced small or 1 Italian sausage, removed from casing)
4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped finely (Sub: 1/2 TBS minced garlic from jar)
8 grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1/2 TBS salt + 2 tsp salt (to taste)
6-7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 lb. bag fresh baby spinach, chopped (Sub: pre-sauteed kale or chard)
1/2 lemon juiced
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional, for garnish)
Fresh parsley, chopped (Sub: dried parsley, basil, or, oregano)
Rinse, drain soaked or canned beans. See introduction for additional suggestions.
In a Dutch over, or ample soup pot, heat oil and pancetta (if you're using it) over medium heat. Brown the pancetta, then add your salt, pepper, onion, garlic, celery, and carrots. NOTE: if you are using any dried herbs, add them here. Toss around until onions are fragrant and slightly translucent. Add your tomatoes and toss around for 1-2 minutes until they begin to swell.
Pour in your stock and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. If your celery and carrots have started softening, add your beans. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. If any bubbles rise from the bean starches, just scoop them off the top with a spoon.
Reduce to a simmer and stir in your chopped spinach. Simmer for 1-2 more minutes, or longer if desired.
Check your liquid levels. If they begin to go too low, add more stock to your liking. Don't just sit there!
Add lemon juice and turn off your heat. Allow your soup to rest, covered for 5-10 minutes.
Serve hot, garnish with fresh parsley and grated Parmesan.