white bean soup.

December 4, 2017

It’s the time of year for soup. Not just because it’s chilly and because soup feels cozy and warm, but also because it’s easy to make, nourishing to eat, and, best of all, simple to share. Make a pot on a weekend afternoon and have enough to eat throughout the week or jar up and share with friends in need of a hot meal. With a jar or two on standby in the freezer, you’ve got extra time for other kinds of holiday cheer, or an easy meal for last-minute guests.

One of my favorite soups to make in December—and throughout the winter—is so simple, it feels like cheating: white beans melted into a base of tomato and parmesan and brightened up with kale and lemon. I’ve never shared the recipe, mostly because I never use one, but I do make a variation of this soup nearly weekly and so I thought I’d provide the inspiration, at the very least, if not a bonafide recipe, exactly.

For my part, I like to keep the ingredients list aggressively simple. You could add carrots and celery. There are similar soup recipes that include potatoes and squash, sometimes even noodles, but for me the beauty is found in just a handful of basic ingredients. 

White Bean Soup with Tomatoes and Kale

What you need:

~ 1 onion (plus another if you’re making the beans from scratch)

~ 3-4 cloves of garlic (plus a few for the beans)

~ 2 cups cooked white beans

~ 1 bunch of lacinato kale

~ 1 28-ounce can of stewed tomatoes

What I do (a rough guide):

+ White beans get soaked overnight if I have the forethought, or simmered away on the stove with a bay leaf, half an onion, and garlic cloves for an extra hour or two on Sunday morning. (Canned beans won’t be as delicious but they’ll make the whole process practically immediate.)

+ Onion and garlic get diced, added to a pot with a healthy glug of olive oil, and sizzled until golden.

+ A large can of stewed tomatoes plus water (I use the empty tomato can as my measure) makes for a rich broth, especially when simmered with the rind off a hunk of parmesan and healthy pinch or three of salt.

+ Cooked beans go back in and burbled away until they’ve started to melt into the pot and turned the broth creamy.

+Then, the stove goes off and ribbons of fresh lacinato kale get stirred in and wilted. Lemon juice goes in for brightening. Parmesan gets grated on top and the whole thing gets served with warm, crusty bread. The end result is Christmas season in a pot, by accident of bright colors (and good cheer).

If you’re someone who feels like you need a very specific recipe, you might try one of these, both variations on the same theme, if not quite as simplified.

PS. I finally caved and scrubbed my old enameled cast iron for the very last time and traded ‘er in for one of these enameled black pots, which has the very important feature of not showing every last drip or drop burned on in cooking and sitting awfully pretty “in storage” on top of the fridge.

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  • Reply Jessica December 4, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    This is similar to a Smitten Kitchen “chard and white bean soup” I make weekly during the cold months (I always sub kale and leave out the white wine). I finally tried adding some sherry vinegar as she suggests in her post and lordy, it’s SO good. I love that the leftovers thicken up as the beans absorb the broth. I put some atop a nice piece of toasted sourdough and throw a fried egg on it and call it breakfast. 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 4, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Yum! So good! I think the lemon does similar brightening work in this rendition!

  • Reply Amy December 4, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    I love this post because lunch is a hurdle for me. I work from home, and while I plan out breakfasts and dinners, the mid-day rolls around and I’m rummaging for canned tuna or going out to eat, which is a huge waste of time and money. A pot of soup like this, tucked in the fridge, is the answer. Per Jessica’s comment, Thomas Keller always suggests adding a dash of vinegar to soup. I do it because…well…when Keller speaks, I listen. 🙂
    Happy Monday. Amy

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 4, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      Yes, totally. Anything acidic does the trick! I love using lemon for that purpose!

  • Reply Emily December 4, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Yes! I love an easy soup recipe. Especially when holiday parties pop up and suddenly you’re cooking for 10. So nice to have a big pot of soup full of warmth and flavor. Can’t wait to try this one! Thanks, Erin! xx

  • Reply Judith December 4, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    This looks great — and is the perfect thing to go with homemade sourdough bread! We have a freezer full of halved green cherry tomatoes from our garden and I’m wondering how those would taste cooked down as a substitute for the canned tomatoes.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 4, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      Delicious, I’m sure!

  • Reply North December 4, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    This looks delicious! I’m definitely making this. Pinned for later!

  • Reply Jay December 4, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    This looks so delicious! Just curious–why this type of kale specifically?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 4, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      It’s my favorite! Use whatever you like!

  • Reply Hannah December 4, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks for the recipe! If you’re feeling indulgent, try making the soup with these: https://www.ranchogordo.com/products/marcella

    They’re a specific heirloom variety of canellini with a thin skin and super creamy texture. Pricey, but the flavor is amazing. I always use these beans to make a similar (but even simpler soup) from Marcella’s Classic Italian Cooking. http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/cannellini-soup

    I always get a kick out of Marcella’s intro to the recipe: “If you really love beans, all you want in a bean soup is beans.” Fair warning though – with so few ingredients, the quality of the beans and olive oil matters ( I wouldn’t do this with canned).

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 4, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      Yum! And yes! Did see you my gift guide last week? I love giving Rancho Gordo beans as a special, but still simple, gift!

      • Reply Hannah December 6, 2017 at 9:24 pm

        No, I must have missed that. The variety you linked to looks great – I’ll have to try them!

  • Reply christina December 4, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    looks delicious. dinner tonight is a broccoli cheddar soup with a veggie base as opposed to chicken broth. i have a potato leek soup planned for later in the week. i went to the farmers market on Saturday and got lots of yummy things. i got some chard so i think i’ll make it with that. btw, i LOVE the pot.

  • Reply Coreen December 4, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Mm, love a good soup. Yesterday I made a big bath of mushroom & barley (recipe linked below) and packed a week’s worth of lunches. Yum!


  • Reply Allegra Ghiloni Fashion Stylist December 5, 2017 at 6:21 am

    This soup looks amazing!
    Thank you for sharing the recipe!

    Allegra xx

  • Reply Kaila December 5, 2017 at 7:32 am

    looks so good, thanks for the inspiration, I’ll be making this for lunch today!
    (I burned my enameled soup pot making popcorn – the two year old was distracting 🙂 – so thanks also for the link, I’ve been on the soup pot hunt.)

  • Reply MA December 5, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Thanks for the dinner inspiration. 🙂
    I used spinach because that’s what we had. Delicious!
    This is similar to a less brothy dish that we make often in summer called “beans and greens”. They are a match made in heaven!

  • Reply anna maria December 5, 2017 at 11:56 am

    These are my very favorite types of recipes this time of year. Thank you for taking the time to share 🙂 I love using lemon at the end, but have also used a splash of balsamic vinegar with great success, as well.

  • Reply Ruchita December 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Being Vegetarian, I always find it difficult to find hearty options! This is perfect, perfect for game night 🙂

  • Reply Carol Wayne December 5, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Made this soup last night and it was just what we needed…and there is leftovers for tonight!

    Thank you!!!

  • Reply Leslie December 8, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Thanks for this, Erin! I love that you pared this recipe down to something I can memorize and wing.

  • Reply Whitney December 12, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Made a version tonight. I used a variety of beans and topped it with manchego. So good! My husband and six year old both loved it! I can’t wait to make this again as the days grow colder. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Molly December 13, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    This was a hit with the fam tonight! So simple. So perfect!

  • Reply Connie December 17, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    I’m so glad you love the Crane! We bought one for ourselves last week, too. It’s just so beautiful on the stove.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 18, 2017 at 9:06 am

      I adore it! Best little workhorse!

  • Reply Lillie December 21, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Do you add water or broth? Thanks!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 21, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      I use water!

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