Lots of chunky vegetables simmered until soft, this soup is then thickened by adding Italian beans and mashing the soup. Sprinkle on some crispy fried pancetta or streaky bacon for the finishing touch.
By putting some beans aside before mashing the mixture and then adding them after mashing, the consistencey of the soup can be varied from thick to less thick.
1 large can (410g) of borlotti beans drained
1 large can (410g) of cannelloni beans, drained
1 large can (400g) of chopped plum tomatoes
200g / 7oz of pancetta or streaky bacon
2 medium sized onions
3 medium carrots
3 sticks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1 litre of vegetable stock (hot water and 2 stock cubes)
1 level teaspoon dried rosemary (two if fresh)
3 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
See recipe step 1 below before preparing the ingredients below.
Peel and chop the onion.
Peel and slice the carrots.
Finely chop the celery sticks.
Peel and finely chop the garlic.
The ingredients list above includes borlotti and cannellini beans because they are traditionally Italian. However almost any similar type of beans can be used with good results. In many soups potatoes are used to thicken the mixture, in this Italian Bean Soup we mash some of the beans to provide the thickening.
We've read similar recipes for this type of soup and noted that they significantly under estimate the preparation time. We think 25 minutes is about right, although it may take some people 5 minutes or so longer. It's the chopping of the vegetables which take the time but most of it can be done while the pancetta / streaky bacon is frying.
Before starting the preparation steps above, start cooking the pancetta / streaky bacon. Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the olive oil. Fry the pancetta (streaky bacon) until it begins to crisp up - you will probably need to do this in two batches unless your pan is huge! Now continue with the preparation, turning the pancetta every two or three minutes.STEP 2
When the pancetta is cooked remove it from the frying pan, let it cool for a couple of minutes and then cut it into smallish pieces with a pair of scissors. Place to one side.
Pour the oil from the frying pan into a large pan on a low to medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan and cook them for 17 minutes with the lid on. Turn the vegetables every few minutes and adjust the heat if they are sizzling too much.STEP 3
Add the garlic, rosemary, vegetable stock and tomatoes, cook for 10 more minutes turning the ingredients occasionally. Add half of the two cans of beans (drained of the water). Mash the soup with a potato masher - only mash long enough to break up beans. If the pan is full and mashing is difficult then remove most of the non-liquid ingredients to another pan and mash in there. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the remaining two half cans of beans, stir the soup well and continue cook for five more minutes.STEP 4
Serve the soup hot into bowls. Sprinkle a portion of the fried pancetta / streaky bacon on top. This soup tastes great on its own or served with chunky bread. Dip the bread in good quality extra virgin oil and balsamic vinegar. A bottle of chilled Peroni beer makes a superb drink to accompany this traditional Italian soup.