“If your mother cooks Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant?”
Creamy, Hearty, and SO Quick & Easy!
Okay, so it’s 2016… let’s just get this old nugget out of the way… WOW! Where did last year go? I know, I know, everyone says it, but it’s for a reason… where DID last year go? Not to say I’m not pleased, I ADORE new starts! Such hope, such promise, such delicious explorations to take and discoveries to make! Happy New Year friends!
And so we begin yet another new year and with it we make ourselves tons of promises and resolve to improve in one way or another. I’m sure I’m not alone with the decision to eat healthier, so I thought it might be a good idea to start Be Still & Eat’s New Year off with a lovely healthy and yet still quite hearty soup.
But first a quick flashback…
In the early ’90’s I used to rush home from work each day and plunk myself down with pencil and paper in front of the cooking shows I had set to tape on my VCR. It was pretty much a daily ritual and one that if I’m being perfectly honest, I sort of miss. I suppose I could still do it, but there was something really special about having them on tape, having to pause, rewind, play over again to get just the right technique or ingredient down, wondering all day long if it actually DID in fact tape. And of course the big decision of when to tape over the existing shows with new ones. I still have a few of these recipes roughly scribbled in my mostly illegible (as many will attest!) handwriting.
Biba was far and away my favourite TV chef of the day. Her honest cooking style and stories of her life both captivating and informative. I learned so much from each of her half-hour shows and still use much of what I learned today. I still use her pasta from scratch recipe and in my opinion it’s the ONLY way to go!
I’ve searched through what cookbooks of hers I now own and also online for this recipe to no avail and so I’ve had to rely on my memory to share it with you. The good news is that it’s such a simple recipe it wasn’t really that hard. So so simple people I am just not kidding! One thing I do remember her saying was that many Italians prefer to eat their soup at room temperature. I know that there is nothing nicer than a steaming hot bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day, but allowing it to cool slightly allows the flavours to really shine.
The other thing about this particular soup that I’m quite fond of is that it’s flexible in not only some optional ingredients but also in presentation. You can pureé or leave it in its more natural and rustic state.
Enjoy & Namaste!
- Olive oil for the pan
- 4 thick slices pancetta, cubed
- 3 ribs celery, diced
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 4 or 5 leaves fresh sage, rough chopped
- 2 540 ml (19 oz) tins cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 large handfuls spinach, rough chopped (OPTIONAL)
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper
- More sage, fried in olive oil to garnish (OPTIONAL, but very nice!)
- Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan
- Sautè pancetta until golden, (if pureeing the soup then remove pancetta at this point)
- Toss celery, onions, garlic and sage leaves to pan, cook over medium/high heat until onions start to become translucent, stirring often.
- Add cannellini beans, cook over med/high heat for a few moments.
- If pureeing soup then grab your immersion blender now or carefully transfer veg and beans to a blender.
- Return to pan over medium heat and add chicken broth, cover and allow to simmer for ½ hour or so.
- If NOT pureeing then add your spinach toward the end of cooking time.
- Check for seasoning, add fresh pepper but go easy with the salt as pancetta will lend a lot already.
- If soup is pureed, garnish with golden brown pancetta piled on a bed of fried sage leaves.
- If soup is au naturel, garnish with lots of freshly grated black pepper, a bit of freshly grated parmigiana and croutons or gorgeous ciabatta.