Pureeing cooked vegetables and stirring them back into the pot is a simple way of thickening this white bean soup. Photo by: Sara Moulton via AP
February 7, 2018 10:48:44 AM
They say that everyone complains about the weather -- winter especially -- but no one ever does anything about it. Well, here's something you can do that will make you feel much better. Cook up a big hot bowl of Italian soup for dinner, garnished with homemade -- and idiot-proof! -- dumplings.
Basically, this is a white bean and vegetable soup flavored with pancetta and garlic. It's thickened by pureeing a few cups of the cooked vegetables and stirring them back into the pot -- one of my favorite ways to thicken a soup because it's so simple. It also avoids dulling the soup's flavor, which is the problem that crops up when flour or cream is used to do the job. Afterward, you'll stir in some fresh lemon juice as a brightener. This is another of my favorite soup tips.
The pancetta makes its appearance as a supporting player, not the star of the show. If you'd like, you can swap in bacon instead. (Both meats are cured pork from the belly. The difference? Bacon is smoked. Pancetta is not.) And you're welcome to leave out the pork altogether.
The dumplings are comfort food and making them is, as mentioned, a fail-safe proposition. You start with fresh breadcrumbs, which require nothing more intricate than pulsing fresh slices of bread in a food processor. (One slice turns into about 1/2 cup of crumbs.) Then just combine the crumbs with eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. You can roll the "dough" into balls and cook them right away, but the work is easier if you park it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes beforehand.
How to round it out? I recommend a nice green salad. Did someone mention winter? You've neutralized it.
WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH GREENS AND BREAD DUMPLINGS
Start to finish: 1 hour, 35 minutes (30 active)
2 large eggs
2 cups fresh white or whole-wheat breadcrumbs
2 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces chopped pancetta
1/2 cup medium chopped onion
1 cup medium diced carrot
1 1/2 cups medium diced fennel
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Two 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
8 ounces baby kale, spinach, or chopped larger greens of your choice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or to taste
Nutritional information per serving: 485 calories; 160 calories from fat; 18 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 136 mg cholesterol; 727 mg sodium; 51 g carbohydrate; 12 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 27 g protein.