There’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of hot soup when the weather’s cold. I especially love a good hearty soup that can be a meal in itself, like this escarole soup with cannellini beans. It’s one of my favorites, probably because it’s an old family recipe that I’ve enjoyed since childhood, but also because it’s easy, delicious, and versatile. You can substitute any dark leafy green for the escarole, such as chard or spinach (or some of each) or use a different bean to replace the cannellinis (chickpeas or kidney beans are great in this.) I usually put in a carrot or two, but I didn’t this time. You can add more garlic if you like, too. The amount of salt you will need depends on if you use water or vegetable broth and how strong the vegetable broth is, so be sure to taste to check the seasonings — you’ll probably need at least 1 teaspoon of salt, maybe more. For the pasta, I used small elbows this time, but any small-shaped “soup pasta” works great. If you have cooked leftover pasta, you can just add that instead, when ready to serve, or eliminate the pasta altogether in favor of some cooked rice or other grain.
My mother learned to make this soup from my grandmother who came from the Abruzzi region of Italy. I carry on the tradition at my house. The mellow cannellini beans provide the perfect balance to the flavorful broth and peppery greens. This recipe is from my newest book, Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
6 cups water or vegetable broth
1 head escarole, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 cups cooked or 2 (15.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup small, dry pasta
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the hot red pepper flakes and the water and bring to a boil. Add the escarole, bay leaves, and marjoram, and simmer 20 minutes. Add the beans, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving.