Tuscan Bean soup was one of the first times I thought, “you know, with enough beans, I could probably be a vegetarian.”1 Or, at least it was one of the first vegetarian recipes that didn’t leave me saying “that was good. But I’m still hungry – can we stop on the way home and get something to eat?”
Ready to start dicing
This is also the recipe that introduced me to kale, back before kale was cool. I know kale is overdone – it has gone from “cool new healthy ingredient” to “New Yorker piece complaining about hipsters and their kale” in the space of a couple of years. That’s OK, because kale is in this recipe for old school reasons. This soup gets Tuscany through Italian winters. It’s a collection of odds and ends – dried beans, root vegetables, a Parmesan rind tossed in the pot to add flavor – and kale, a winter crop that loves growing in the snow.
Sautéing the aromatics
Cannellini beans are the traditional Tuscan white bean, but if you can’t find them, great northern beans make a good substitute.
Looking for a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs soup? Try Tuscan beans.
½ teaspoon fine sea salt (or table salt, or Kosher salt)
Pinch 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 cups water
1 (14- to 16-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 parmesan rind (roughly 3 inches by 1 1/2 inches)
1 (2-inch long) sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 ounces kale, stems removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Grated parmesan for garnish
Minced parsley for garnish
Soak the beans: Sort the cannellini beans, removing broken beans, stones, and dirt clods. Rinse the beans put them in a large container with the fine sea salt, and cover with 2 quarts water. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans.
Sauté the aromatics: Heat the olive oil in the pressure cooker pot over medium-high heat (sauté mode in an electric pressure cooker) until the oil starts shimmering. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic, and sprinkle with the ½ teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes. Sauté until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes.
Pressure cook the beans: Add the drained cannellini beans to the pressure cooker and stir them to mix with the aromatics. Pour in the water and diced tomatoes, sprinkle with the baking soda, and stir. Add the parmesan rind, rosemary, and thyme sprigs. Lock the lid, bring the cooker up to high pressure, and pressure cook at high pressure for 20 minutes in an electric PC, or 16 minutes in a stovetop PC. Quick release the pressure. (Or, cook for 15/12 minutes at high pressure, then natural pressure release for about 20 minutes. ) Remove the lid carefully, opening away from you - even when it’s not under pressure, the steam in the cooker is very hot.
Simmer the kale, then serve: Fish out the parmesan rind and discard. Turn the heat under the pressure cooker to medium-high (sauté mode on an electric PC) and stir in the kale. Simmer, uncovered, until the kale is tender, about 3 minutes. Stir the fresh ground black pepper and balsamic vinegar into the pot, then taste. Add more salt as needed - the soup will taste bland without enough salt. (I add 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt to the beans). Serve, sprinkling each bowl of soup with fresh grated parmesan and minced parsley.
I add baking soda when I’m cooking beans – beans get tough in acidic environments, and the baking soda helps neutralize the acid. (In this recipe, I’m trying to balance out the acid from the tomatoes).
Pressure Cooker Tuscan Bean Soup, ready to eat!
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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