Rosemary White Bean Soup, Crispy Pancetta and Croutons

As winter lingers on and on, with far too many days of record cold temps and far too much snow –  it’s still the time of year for baking bread and for having a pot of something simmering on the back of the stove. There’s just something comforting about having dinner, happily blipping away, while you go about doing what you have to do… wafts of deliciousness permeating your kitchen and home…. aaaaaaah.

It’s absolutely revoltingly cold right now, especially for mid March… but I can’t help think that almost before we know it, the hot & sweaty days of summer will be upon us. Hot & hearty soups will be traded in for the fresh and simple eating of the warmer seasons.

The last time I made a white bean dip, I couldn’t help but think how how absolutely fantastic the flavours would be in a soup. White beans, garlic, rosemary, extra virgin olive oil… Like many foods, white beans are a blank canvas, ready to take on whatever flavours you add – the more robust, the better.

Instead of adding diced pancetta to the sautéing onions stage, I opted to sauté the veg in olive oil and fry the pancetta separately to keep as a garnish for those who want it, keeping meat & non meat eaters happy. I also knew that by keeping the pancetta separate, it would keep it’s crispness, bringing more texture to the dish.

For the croutons, simply chunk up whatever bread you have on hand, and crisp them up in some of the oil from the pancetta or in some olive oil.

Hearty, warm and satisfying. Amen to winter… and it’s soon to be end~

Rosemary White Bean Soup, Crispy

Pancetta and Croutons

This would be even better made with dried beans that have been soaked overnight, and then simmered. Remember when you’re cooking beans from dried, especially any white bean – be
sure to add some flavour to the pot… chunks of onion, slices of garlic & bay leaves all lend themselves nicely here.  This will make 4 starter servings.
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 tsp finely minced rosemary leaves (about 1/2 sprig)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 19oz can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
3 1/2 cups chicken or veg stock
*optional – 1/4 cup heavy cream for a luxurious finish
2 oz pancetta, cut into bite sized pieces, for garnish
1 slice bread, to chunk into croutons
In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onion & rosemary in the olive oil for about 5 minutes – don’t let it brown. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, until fragrant.
Add the drained beans, salt & pepper, then stir around in the veg & oil mixture for another 5 minutes. This will really help the flavour to permeate the beans, and therefore the soup. In fact, you could serve the beans as a fantastic side dish, delicious in their own right.
Add the stock and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, partially uncovered.
While the soup is cooking, pan fry the pancetta until crisp. Remove from the pan, leaving only about a teaspoon of oil, and pan fry the croutons. Put both aside until the soup is ready.
Purée the soup using your favourite appliance and add the cream if desired.
Serve in pretty bowls, topped with crispy pancetta, croutons and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.

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