(Sort of) Meatless Monday: Tuscan white bean soup…with pancetta

2013-01-28 at 18-20-10

I have a weakness. Okay, so I have many weaknesses, but the one I’m going to focus on here is for pancetta. I’m not sure there is a more perfect food to cook with. Sure, it’s full of sodium, fat and cholesterol, but it’s also full of flavor and the (intangible) things that make you proud to be Italian. Let the Irish have their whiskey and corned beef and cabbage. Let the French have their wine and snails. The Germans can keep their schnitzel. I have pancetta, therefore, I win.

And, that’s why this deviates slightly from Meatless Monday. The pancetta provides the fat base for this soup and the cooked pancetta is used as a topping for the hot soup. The pancetta could go away entirely, or just be used for the fat, I suppose. Either way, you get a good Tuscan-style bean soup out of it.2013-01-27 at 18-08-12

WHAT WORKED: The pancetta. It not only provided all of the fat needed to render everything, but plenty of salt to season things.

WHAT DIDN’T: The combination of broth and cream made this way to soupy, so much so that the pancetta didn’t sit atop the soup. It fell below the surface. I think that if I were to do this again, I would use an immersion blender after adding the beans to puree everything, and then add another can of beans.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: Nothing. We were otherwise preoccupied with our daughter, her on-again/off-again stomach bug and her current hunger strike.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Maybe, though if I were going to go through the trouble of a bean soup, I would make a navy bean and use the pancetta to top that.

2013-01-27 at 18-39-10Tuscan white bean soup with pancetta
Adapted from Picture Perfect Meals

  • 4 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 1 onions, diced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 qt. chicken stock
  • 2 14-15 oz. cans of cannellini beans, drained, rinsed and separated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, stripped of its fronds
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, stripped of its leaves
  • 1 small to medium parmesan cheese
  • 3 oz. heavy cream
  • two heaping soup spoons of grated Parmesan cheese

In a large soup or Dutch oven over high heat cook the pancetta browned and crispy, about 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain. Set aside. Add the onions to the rendered fat, season with some pepper and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add one cup of the stock to the pan to deglaze the pan.

2013-01-27 at 18-20-20Add the remaining stock and half of the beans. Use an immersion blender to puree the beans in the soup pot (if you don’t have an immersion blender, gently ladle the soup into a blender and puree 5 to 10 seconds before returning to the pot). Add the remaining beans, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Fish out the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Add the cream and Parmesan, and cook until soup starts to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.

Taste for seasoning. Serve the soup in bowls and top with the diced pancetta.

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