In Italy the land of Amore lies Tuscany the embodiment of romance. Tuscany beckons with its sun-kissed rolling hills, castles, villas and earthy cuisine. Just having the name Tuscan on a dish makes it seductive and especially inviting. Thus with Valentine’s Day approaching I’m sharing a thick, velvet-textured and richly flavored Tuscan White Bean Soup with Kale and Potatoes.
An easily made soup prepared with many typical Tuscan ingredients. From the heart-healthy Tuscan kale itself, to the white beans, potatoes and fresh thyme. Noticeably missing in this gluten-free soup is the stand-a-fork-upright body that comes from including day-old Tuscan bread. In its stead, a portion of the potatoes and vegetables are puréed creating a creamy base with well-balanced flavor.
I cannot tell a lie
I love colorful soups. So a rather un-Tuscan ingredient shows up in this soup as well. A bit of orange-fleshed sweet potato (a yam) adds color along with a tad of sweetness to the creamy broth. A great addition inspired by my husband’s love of sweet vegetables.
White sweet potatoes add the same sweetness along with a surprise in your bowl. Being white you never know whether you’ve got a piece of regular potato or of sweet potato on your spoon until it reveals its sweet identity in your mouth.
Spilling the beans
Cannellini, Great Northern and Navy beans tend to be the most widely available white beans in the U.S. and thus the most popular. With a similar nutritional profile (good source of protein, iron and dietary fiber) and only slight differences in taste and size, use them interchangeably in this soup and in most other recipes as well.
- Canellinis are especially popular in Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy. These creamy textured beans hold their shape especially well after cooking.
- Medium-sized and kidney-shaped Great Northern beans remain the most popular in the U.S. With a smooth texture and delicate flavor, they are often added to soups, salads, stews and casseroles.
- A staple food for the United States Navy during the early part of the last century, so named “Navy” beans are the smallest of the three in size and the quickest to cook from dry beans. They are often puréed or used in baked bean recipes.
Warm your heart
For everyone still in the midst of winter’s cold, go ahead and warm your heart and nurture your soul with a thick and hearty bowl of Tuscan White Bean Soup. Soup is such classic comfort food. With a pot of soup on the stove all seems well with the world.
Tuscan White Bean Soup w/ Kale & Potatoes
– Vegetarian & Gluten-Free
If you have any pesto remaining in your freezer, start defrosting it. A spoonful in the bottom of your soup bowl adds a hint of summer’s essence and perfume even in the middle of winter.
Makes 16 cups
Active time: 40-45 minutes
Total time: about 1½ hours
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced pole-to-pole and then halved
1½ cups celery, 1/3-inch dice
1½ cups carrot, 1/3-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
Dozen twists freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cups Yukon gold potatoes, ½-inch dice, stored in water
3 cups yam, peeled, ½-inch dice, stored in water
1 large bunch Tuscan or other variety of kale, stems removed and sliced ¼-inch thick, greens cut about 1 x 2 inches
Two 15-ounce cans cannellini beans or other variety of white beans, including liquid
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, cover the pot and cook about five minutes until the onions are translucent. Stir in the diced celery and carrot, the crushed garlic, bay leaves and fresh thyme. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook 5 minutes
- Stir in the potatoes, kale stems and 8 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat so the water simmers. Partially cover the pot and cook about 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
- Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
- Use a blender to puree 4 cups of the soup and return it to the pot.
- Stir in the kale and the canned beans with their liquid. Push the kale down into the broth. Bring the soup back to a boil then lower the heat. Cook the soup partially covered for another 8-10 minutes or until the kale is tender.
- Stir in the balsamic vinegar and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve Tuscan White Bean Soup as is. Or garnish it with grated cheese and/or a spoonful of pesto.