Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Soup

Looking at my blog archives, I can see I’ve developed a pattern.  Right around this time of year, when the mornings and evenings are crisp and the days are cool and cloudy, I fall into a pretty consistent repertoire of soups and pumpkin baked goods.  I want to say I’m sorry, but the truth is, I’m not.  Soup and pumpkin baked goods are two of my favorite things!

This soup is new to me and a welcome addition to my steady stream of fall and winter soups.  It’s not new to its creators, the very lovely Sonja and Alex Overhiser of A Couple Cooks.  In fact, their cookbook notes say its one of the first recipes they came up with.  Packed with fennel, tomatoes, garlic, and Italian herbs, it’s no wonder they’ve nicknamed it “pizza soup.”

Sonja and Alex say it’s a recipe they still make to this day and I can certainly see why.  With just a bit of chopping and a few cans to open, this soup comes together easily, making it an ideal weeknight meal.  Since it’s vegan, it keeps in the refrigerator all week without issue–perfect for lunches!

I’m a fennel lover, but if you’re not, please do still give this soup a try.  When cooked with other savory ingredients, fennel becomes smooth, earthy, and slightly sweet and leaves behind the licorice flavor it has on its raw state.  Besides fennel seed is a common ingredient in Italian sausage, just adding even more pizza flavor to this already craveworthy soup.

tuscan white bean fennel pizza soup

Sweet, earthy fennel, creamy white beans, fire-roasted tomatoes, and a savory blend of Italian spices make this simple, healthy soup one you’ll want again and again.  Who wouldn’t love pizza soup?
Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Soup
slightly adapted from Sonja and Alex Overhiser, Pretty Simple Cooking

2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 fennel bulb
1 small red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 (28-oz.) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, San Marzano if available
1 (15-oz.) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, San Marzano if available
1 bay leaf
1 qt. vegetable broth
2 (15-oz.) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 c. packed spinach leaves OR
1 bunch Tuscan kale (also called Lacinato or dinosaur)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional–soup is otherwise vegan)

1.  Heat a large stock or soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add oil and bring to temperature.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare fennel by cutting off any tough parts on the bottom of the bulb and the stems from the fronds up.  Reserve some of the fronds for garnish and dice the bulb and remaining stems.  Add the fennel and onion to the pot and sauté 4 minutes until softened, but not browned.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, and paprika.  Sauté for 30 seconds.

3.  Carefully add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot, along with the bay leaf, and simmer 5 minutes.

4.  Add the broth and beans and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce back down to a simmer, then add the spinach or kale, along with the salt and black pepper.  Simmer until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf, then taste and adjust seasoning.

5.  To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with shaved or grated cheese and/or fennel fronds, if desired.

yield: 6 servings

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