A hearty, healthy vegetarian soup made with cannellini beans! A parmesan rind and fresh herbs add richness to this classic Italian white bean soup. Gluten-free and ready in less than an hour!
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I wish I could say that I have eaten this soup in Tuscany. I have been to Tuscany, but I did not have the distinct pleasure of its famous white bean soup. (Is it really famous? I don't know...)
I was really trying to recreate the Tuscan White Bean Soup we had when I worked at California Pizza Kitchen. I have some very specific memories of it. Good ones.
It was a healthy, vegetarian soup made with cannellini beans, so I never felt guilty about eating it. And it was filling, and very affordable with my 50% employee discount for a shift meal. So I ate a lot of it.
The standard garnish was a dab of parmesan and a few croutons. If memory serves me, the herbs on the croutons made their way into the soup. Those herbs were the golden nugget that added a lot of flavor.
I wanted this soup to be gluten-free so my husband could eat it, so the croutons had to be nixed. I decided to add fresh herbs to the base to achieve that herb-y goodness.
I also added a few of my own touches and secrets to the classic white bean soup recipe: using the liquid in the cans of cannellini beans, simmering it with a parmesan cheese rind, and throwing in some kale to make it even more healthy.
Tuscan white bean soup with kale
This soup recipe is completely vegetarian and very easy to make, using water as the base - no stock at all! It can be made vegan if you leave out the parmesan cheese rind and topping.
Place a large stock pot over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, then add onions and sweat until they are translucent, but not brown, 5 - 8 minutes.
I used my Lodge cast iron enameled Dutch oven for this soup recipe. It provides nice even heat for all the aspects of this preparation from sweating the onions to simmering the soup.
Disclosure: I am a member of the Lodge blogger network and they provided this pan to me free of charge.
Add carrots and sweat until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Season mixture with a pinch of salt.
Make a space in the center of the pot, drizzle in another tablespoon of olive oil and let it heat up a bit. Add the fresh herbs and let them sizzle in the oil for a minute or so, then stir to combine.
Don't skip this step - you're infusing the olive oil with the flavors and aromas of the herbs, which will in turn, add a lot of wonderful flavor and aroma to the whole pot of soup.
Clear a space in the center of the pan and add the tomato paste. Let it sizzle and cook for a minute or so.
Stir to combine tomato paste with other ingredients.
Add the two cans of cannellini beans INCLUDING THE LIQUID IN THE CANS! Season with salt.
Do NOT drain the beans. This liquid is loaded with flavor and will add thickness and richness to the soup.
Add 8 cups of water to the pot, then add a rind from a piece of parmigiano reggiano cheese.
This is my secret to all kinds of soups and sauces. You must buy the real parmigiano reggiano cheese. It is worth the investment because the flavor is so much better. Keep the rinds and use them in this soup, or tomato sauces, and so much more. The rinds will keep in the freezer for several months.
Tear kale from the stems in large chunks and add to soup.
Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a medium simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Season the soup with salt and pepper.
Top with freshly grated parmesan and serve.
What is a cannellini bean?
Cannellini beans are white beans that hail from Italy. They have a fluffy, creamy texture, and they hold their shape well in soups, salads and pasta dishes.
Are cannellini beans and white kidney beans the same?
Yes! Cannellini beans are often called white kidney beans when sold in the US, as their shape is similar to that of red kidney beans.
Looking for more vegetarian soup recipes?
Tuscan White Bean Soup with Kale
- 1 large bunch kale
- 2 cans cannellini beans 14 oz each
- 1 onion diced
- 3 carrots diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 8 cups water
- 1 parmesan cheese rind can be eliminated to make this vegan
- kosher salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- grated parmesan cheese optional topping
- Dice the onions and carrots. Chop the rosemary and pick the thyme leaves and set aside.
- Place a large stock pot over medium heat and add 1 tbsp of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add onions and sweat until translucent but not browning, about 5 - 8 minutes.
- Add carrots to the pot with the onions until they begin to sweat and turn bright orange, about 2 minutes. Season carrot/onion mixture with salt.
- Make a space in the center of the pot, drizzle in another tablespoon of olive oil and let it heat up a bit. Add the fresh herbs and let them sizzle in the oil for about a minute, then stir to combine.(see recipe notes)
- Clear a space in the center of the pan and add the tomato paste. Let it sizzle and cook for a minute, until the color seems to darken a bit. Stir to combine with other ingredients in the pan.
- Add both cans of cannellini beans ALONG WITH THE LIQUID IN THE CAN! This liquid is going to thicken the soup and give it additional flavor. Season with salt.
- Add 8 cups of water and the parmesan rind if using. Tear the kale from the stems and add to soup in large chunks.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a medium simmer for 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
- Don’t skip sizzling the herbs in the olive oil before mixing them in. You're allowing them to bloom, and infusing the olive oil with the flavors and aromas of the herbs. This will, in turn, add a lot of wonderful flavor and aroma to the whole pot of soup.
- Adding a rind from parmesan cheese is one of my best secret tips. Save the rinds and use in soups and sauces to add umami. They freeze well and last for months.
- I used my Lodge cast iron enameled Dutch oven for this recipe. It has nice even heat for sweating the veggies and simmering the soup.
- Be sure to use the liquid in the cans of beans! It is liquid gold and adds flavor and creaminess to the soup.