Why we love this recipe:
Every time we make this soup, we prepare a double batch. This soup is so good we often serve it as a first or second course when we have dinner guests. (*Note: The Italian flavour profile makes this the perfect soup to serve before a pasta course) And since it’s excellent re-heated making it ahead of time takes some of the pressure off when preparing a meal for friends. They get something tasty to whet their appetites while we prepare other dishes. This makes entertaining much more relaxing for us. All that said, it’s also hearty and tasty enough to have as a main with a nice big chunk of crusty Italian bread!
No Waste Kitchen:
Parmesan Rind: Start saving those parmesan rinds! Cheese rinds are the outside shell, and too many people simply discard them. This is almost tragic. Parmesan rinds are rich in flavour; they can be used to flavour soups and sauces. This soup is prepared with parmesan rinds, which infuse the broth with flavour. It’s amazing! We always have a little zip lock bag in the freezer where we keep our parmesan rinds until we’re ready to cook with them. As far as we can tell, they keep for many months without losing their flavour punch.
Canning Liquid: If you’re using canned cannellini (white kidney) beans (which are a perfectly acceptable substitute for rehydrated, cooked dry beans - see below), don’t throw out the canning liquid. Give it a taste; if the liquid has a rich, “beany” flavour (not metallic or bitter), by all means, add the liquid with the beans to the slow cooker. This adds flavour and makes for a thicker broth.
Bean Liquor: If you find yourself cooking dry white kidney beans for other recipes, save the cooking liquid. There’s a reason it’s called bean liquor. It’s a great flavour booster. We always freeze the strained liquid for future use in other soups and sauces. We also substitute up to ⅓ of the broth for this recipe with white kidney bean liquor.
Use the excess rosemary: If you bought rosemary just to make this soup and find yourself with a bunch of rosemary and no immediate use for it, use it right away to create a beautiful herbed oil. When you reheat the soup, drizzle each individual serving with a little bit of oil just before serving. This is not only tasty - it’s really pretty! This is also a delicious way to flavour chicken dishes.
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Extra virgin olive oil
Red Pepper Flakes
Chicken Broth (make your own if you're motivated!)
Cannelini Beans or Great Northern Beans or White Kidney Beans
Parmesan Cheese Rind
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Time: If you’re cooking this in your slow cooker on low, it takes 9-11 hours. Start this in the morning! We make this worthwhile by doing a double batch, which gives us 14 appetizer-sized potions (6oz) and freezing them in individual serving sizes. You can always combine two small portions to make one main.
Not your usual slow cooker recipe: This is not a one-step “throw it in the pot and forget it” recipe. Flavours are intensified with sautéeing.
Substitutes: If you can’t find pancetta, you can substitute with bacon. However, it’s worth taking the time to find pancetta for its unique flavour.
More than one name: White kidney beans are also sold under the name “Cannellini Beans ”. Do not substitute red kidney beans for white ones, they have a very different flavour. If you don’t find them near the other beans at your grocery store, don’t fret. Sometimes these beans are tucked away in the International Food Aisle of grocery stores. We’ve also found them near the pasta and tomato sauces. You can find them dry online or visit a European market. If you’re in Saskatoon, we have occasionally seen them at Co-Op grocery stores or Superstore. In Regina, you can check the Italian Star Deli; they have the dry beans in stock sometimes.
Using canned beans: The recipe calls for dry beans. When we use canned beans, we add them in for the last five hours. Don’t throw out the canning liquid. Scroll up and read the “No Waste” section of this post.
The broth: It’s fine to use store-bought chicken broth, but do try to use only the higher end broths that are now widely available. For our part, we love this soup so much we treat it with care from beginning to end, meaning we make our own broth from scratch for this recipe. We use raw bones (some broth recipes call for roasting bones first) and a white mirepoix (parsnip, onion, leek, and celery) to give it a delicate uniqueness while letting the flavour of the rosemary, parmesan, and beans take centre stage.
Reheating Tips: Reheat this in a pot and add a sprig of fresh rosemary to reinvigorate the rosemary aroma. Or drizzle with rosemary oil just before serving. Scroll up and read the “No Waste” section of this post.
Freezer Friendly: Not only is it freezer friendly (like so many soups and stews the flavour is richer when re-heated), many people we have served this to prefer the texture of the soup after it has been frozen. That’s because the process of freezing and re-heating breaks down some of the beans giving the soup a thicker texture and making the broth even more flavourful.
Healthy Eating: We lean on this soup as an enjoyable way to cut down on our pasta carbs when we need to satisfy that white flour pasta craving. We freeze appetizer portions (about 6 oz per person) and enjoy a small bowl before eating our pasta dish. This means our main plate of pasta is cut down from 125-150g per person to about 75g per person.