Tuscan bean soup is a classic Italian vegetable soup that just happens to be loaded with trendy super foods such as kale. Seems the Italians have known what’s best all along.
Tuscan bean soup is proof that nonnas—and grandmas the world over who make vegetable soup—have known what’s best for you all along. Look at the list of ingredients for this classic Italian recipe. It contains several foods that research has deemed “super foods” and, not only that, what results tastes comforting as heck. We trust that you’ll not only incorporate this easy and satiating recipe into your repertoire but take heed next time your grandma tells you something.–Renee Schettler
Tuscan Bean Soup
- 1 cup dried borlotti (cranberry) beans soaked and drained
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 1 large carrot peeled and chopped
- 1 stalk celery thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- One (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pick over the beans and toss out any stones or unrecognizable grit. Rinse the beans thoroughly under cold running water and drain. Dump the beans in a large bowl or stock pot and add enough cold water to cover by 3 to 4 inches (7 1/2 to 10 centimeters). Soak the beans for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
- Drain the beans, pouring their cooking liquid into another pot or a heatproof bowl. Set aside both the beans and the liquid separately.
- Heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until the onion and celery are translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, separate the stems from the kale leaves. Stack the kale leaves, roll them up lengthwise, and then cut the leaves crosswise into strips about 1/2 inch (12 millimeters) wide. Discard the stems or save them for another use. Toss the kale in the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and, using your hands, crush them into small pieces. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot and stir to combine.
- Measure the bean cooking liquid and add enough water to measure 4 cups (32 ounces or 1 liter). Add the beans and the cooking liquid mixture to the pot along with the bay leaf and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer just until the beans are heated through, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed individual bowls and serve right away.
*What can I substitute for borlotti beans?Borlotti (or cranberry) beans should be pretty easy to find but if not, there are a few others you can substitute instead. Try pinto beans—they're really easy to find and you might even have them on hand already. Cannellini or even kidney beans will make a decent stand-in as well.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
Delicious, simple, and nutritious. That's pretty much all I have to say about this soup. Cooking the kale for only 10 minutes with the beans and liquid was too short for my taste. The leaves were still very tough and "raw." I cooked them for an additional 20 minutes to get them perfectly wilted and softened. They never got mushy but were slightly firm and fully cooked.
I think if this is served as a main course, it makes close to 6 servings. It keeps very well. I enjoyed the last of it almost a full week after I first made it. It is great as is, but adding a drizzle of olive oil and long shavings of Parmesan took it to another level.
Eating this soup took us back to Italy, where we first had—and fell in love with—Tuscan bean soup. We ended up ordering it every day, even though it was summertime. This recipe didn't disappoint and will be made and enjoyed often.
I cooked the beans in a pot with a couple of the Parmesan rinds that I keep in a bag in the freezer. The broth was very flavorful. I ended up with 6 cups bean broth, 4 cups of which were used for the soup and 2 extra cups that I froze. In the hour it took my cranberry beans to cook, I prepped the rest of the ingredients. I cut the stems out of the kale and sliced them into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. I added the sliced stems to the chopped onions, carrots, and celery, and sautéed them all together. I cooked everything in the pot the beans had cooked in. All times were accurate.
The soup is delicious as written. After eating some of this soup simply, I served the rest the way that we always enjoyed ribollita. I made crostini from a baguette, put it in the soup bowls, and added the soup. I drizzled a lovely, peppery Tuscan olive oil over the top and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Che buono. Delizioso!
Originally published March 7, 2016