Tuscan White Bean & Escarole Soup

Fall is in the air and soup is on the menu. It's been an overcast kind of week and threatening rain this weekend, so what better way to stave away the doldrums than with comfort food. This soup is the perfect sunday supper meal. Stock up at your Saturday farmer's market for fresh, seasonal vegetables that will be perfect for the pot.

This recipe features a classic, bitter Italian green, escarole. Part of the chicory family, its long, leafy green leaves are usually sauteed, braised or cooked in soups. Tuscan White Bean & Escarole is one of my favorite soup recipes using this green and a few dried Italian beans. I use a combination of white beans, such as cannellini and fagioli corona {a large broad bean we bring in from our friend's organic farm in Alba, Italy}. If time or planning ahead is a consideration, feel free to use canned beans. The shortcut will not compromise the flavor {or enjoyment!}.

Tuscan White Bean & Escarole Soup

2 sweet yellow onions, chopped finely
4 ounces of guanciale, diced {use 2 Tablespoons bacon fat or butter if you do not have guanciale on hand.}
2 cups carrot round slices, 1/4 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon crushed chili pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 cup dried white beans {soak overnight, rinse and drain}
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups water
1 head of escarole, wash well and tear into 1 inch pieces.
Parmesan cheese

In a large pot over medium heat, add the guanciale and render out the fat. With a slotted spoon, remove the crispy pieces and set aside as a garnish. If using bacon drippings or butter, simple heat the fat. Add the onions, salt and pepper. Cook the onions until soft and translucent, but not browned. Add the carrots, white beans, chili flakes and stock. Cook, covered, over medium low heat for about an hour. Taste for seasoning. Add the greens and continue cooking until the beans are tender and the soup is thickened, about an additional 30-45 minutes. Serve warm garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.

* NOTE: if you are in a hurry, you can always use 2 cups cooked cannellini beans from a can. Find a good quality Italian brand.
Also, if you wan't to make a vegetarian version, omit the guanciale and substitute chicken stock with vegetable stock.

serves 6-8 as a hearty meal.

Buon appetito!
copyright 2009 Alisa Barry

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