White Bean Soup
1 1/2 cups dried cannellini or other white beans
1 bay leaf
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups boiling water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, to serve
A thick puree of cooked dried beans is at the heart of this substantial country soup from Tuscany. It makes a warming lunch or supper dish.
Pick over the beans carefully, discarding any stones or other particles. Rinse thoroughly in cold water to ensure that they are clean. Soak in a large bowl of cold water overnight. Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan of water, bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Drain.
Return the beans to the pan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil again. Add the bay leaf and cook for 1-2 hours, until the beans are tender. Drain again. Remove the bay leaf. ***Canned cooked beans, such as cannellini or borlotti, may be substituted in this recipe. Simply drain the beans and omit Step 1.***
Puree about three quarters of the beans in a food processor or pass through a food mill, adding a little water if necessary, to create a smooth paste.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Stir in the onion and cook until it softens. Add the celery and carrot and cook for 5 minutes more.
Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and thyme. Cook for 6-8 minutes more, stirring often.
Pour in the boiling water. Stir in the beans and the bean puree. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve in individual soup bowls, sprinkled with a little olive oil.