Cannellini Bean and Escarole Soup

1 1/4 cups dried cannellini beans (1/2 pound), soaked overnight or quick-soaked and drained
1 head escarole (1 pound), cored
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small celery rib, finely chopped
1 whole bay leaf
1 16 ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped marjoram
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Grilled peasant bread, for serving

In a medium saucepan, cover the beans with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 hours. Keep adding water as necessary so the beans are always submerged in 1 inch of water. Remove them from the heat and season with salt.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the escarole for 3 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the celery and bay leaf and cook over low heat until the celery is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, their cooking liquid, tomatoes and their juices and simmer over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Add the escarole and simmer for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

Season with salt and stir in the parsley, garlic, marjoram and crushed red pepper. Add a piece of grilled bread to each bowl, ladle in the soup and serve.

Servings: 4

Note: Quick-Soaking for Dried Beans Rinse the beans, then transfer to a saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour; drain.

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