Tuscan cannellini bean & cavolo nero soup

If you are the impulsive sort who starts cooking a dish before fully reading the method, and then 10 minutes before your planned meal time come across the instruction ‘marinade for a fortnight’, then please read the recipe below thoroughly as it contains not only ‘simmer for two hours‘ but also ‘soak overnight‘. That said, forewarned is forearmed, and planning ahead will be rewarded with this particularly toothsome and satisfying hearty soup.

Preparation time: 20 minutes plus OVERNIGHT SOAKING
Cooking time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Skill level: easy (but needs to be started a day in advance)
Serves: 4


For the beans:

  • dried cannellini beans – 250g
  • olive oil – healthy glug
  • 1 onion – finely chopped
  • 1 carrot – chopped
  • 1 celery stalk – chopped
  • 1 leek – finely sliced
  • 3 ripe tomatoes – chopped (peeled and deseeded if you can be bothered)
  • 3 garlic cloves – finely chopped

For the soup:

  • olive oil – a generous pouring
  • 3 garlic cloves – finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary – needles – chopped
  • 2 sprigs of thyme – leaves
  • chilli flakes – 2–3 pinches
  • cavolo nero – stalks removed and chopped
  • salt and pepper

Soak the beans in cold water overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large heavy pan (such as a Le Creuset casserole dish) and add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, leek and tomatoes, and gently sauté for about 10 minutes.

Add the beans and stir well for a minute.

Add 2 litres of cold water and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.

Bring almost to a boil, cover with lid and cook at the gentlest simmer for at least 2 hours, by which time the beans should be soft and tender.

Remove half the beans with a slotted spoon and blend in a liquidiser until smooth. Return this mixture to the soup.

Bring the soup back to the boil, taste and season.

While this is happening, heat some oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, rosemary, thyme and chilli flakes and sauté for 1 or 2 minutes and then add  this to the soup.

Add the cavolo nero to the soup, stir well and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Taste and season if necessary.

Done. 10 hours well spent.

Serve with a sprinkling of cheese and a good crusty bread, or better still, cheese on toast.

Verdict: Comforting tasty fare, especially if garnished with the cheese on toasts. More of a meal than a soup – in fact this is so hearty you’d be forgiven for thinking it contains pig. Well worth the time invested.

Other recipes requiring overnight soaking of cannellini beans are this Gremolata Poached Tuna & Bean Salad, or this Jamie Oliver’s Amazing Pukka Baked Beans. Alternatively, if it’s cavolo nero smothered in cheese you’re after, we recommend this Wilted greens and potato with cheese sauce.

Drink: Lock down lager and an anti-covid red.

Entertainment: A socially distanced ‘SpringWatch’ arrived and departed like a warm fragrant vernal breeze. Much improved by the absence of the anthropomorphising Michaela Strachan, but as always, featuring far too many bleedin’ birds.

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