I love white beans and always keep them handy. Their white color contrasts nicely with colorful veg like carrots and greens. I prefer the small white beans, which you can get in bulk at most grocery stores. Bob’s Red Mill carries at least three types of white beans (It’s worth a trip to their store.). Here, I use their small white beans. But you can also use navy beans or the larger cannellini beans.
This is a nice hearty soup that can be made into many variations. You can skip the fennel and add thin strips of kale (my favorite is lacinato, also known as Italian black kale) when you add the beans and water. The point being that soup has room for experimentation. For example, if you like a soup that has a strong fennel flavor, add more fennel seed. If you aren’t sure, either skip it or use a little less. The fennel bulb on its own won’t emit as much fennel flavor, which is why I’ve added the fennel seed.
1 cup dry small white beans, navy beans or cannellini, soaked overnight
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, slightly crushed
Small pinch of red pepper flake
2 T olive oil
1 carrot, chopped small about 1/8 inch size
1 celery, chopped small about 1/8 inch size
1 onion, chopped small about 1/8 inch size
1 small to medium fennel bulb, halved and halved again, thinly sliced
3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
8 cups stock or water
salt and pepper to taste
1. Chop all vegetables. Heat oil in a stock pot. Saute vegetables, a pinch of salt and herbs for about 10 minutes on low to medium heat, slightly covered. This will sweat the vegetables.
2. Add the tomatoes and saute another minute. Add the beans and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered for about 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. Add salt to taste towards end of cooking.
3. Puree in a blender about 1/3 of the soup. Add pureed soup back to the pot.
4. Optional: drizzle with a little good olive oil before serving. Serve with a rustic bread and salad.
Notes: The red pepper flake just adds depth and rounds out the flavor; the soup is not meant to be spicy. Use what herbs you have. Add more or less stock or water depending on desired thickness of soup.
Download the White Bean Fennel recipe as a PDF.