Pancetta, Bean and Spinach Soup
A friend at work asked me to re-create a pancetta bean soup she loves that is served at a restaurant across the street from the office. She described the soup to me and this is what I came up with. I have not actually tasted the restaurant’s soup myself, so I brought a sampling into work today and I received approval!
I also served this soup last night to my friends who came over to watch the Oscars with me, and they loved it. So this hearty soup is definitely a winner, and better yet, it is also really easy to make! I especially love the pancetta in it, which I think is such a treat.
What exactly is pancetta? In sum, pancetta is Italian bacon. Unlike American bacon, it is not smoked. Instead, pancetta is pork belly that has been cured with salt and spices for about three months. Also, unlike American bacon, pancetta comes in the form of a very large sausage.
So are you now ready to make this really yummy soup? Here is what you need (for 5 servings):
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 4 small onions, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 celery sticks, chopped
- 2/3 lb pancetta
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tsp fresh thyme
- 4 cans (19 oz.) of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 32 oz. chicken broth
- 4 handfuls of fresh spinach, cooked (See note 1)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large stock pot or sauté pan (about 5 qt.) over medium heat, add olive oil.
- Just start dicing the onion and adding it into the pot as you go. Continue with the rest of the ingredients—cutting, as needed, and adding as you go down the list—up through the thyme. Be sure to stir frequently.
- Once the onion and celery become translucent, add the beans. Let cook for a few minutes until the beans are warmed.
- Add the chicken broth and turn the heat up to medium high.
- Once the broth is heated, discard the bay leaf and then ladle the soup into a food processor and puree fully. This will likely need to be completed in batches and transferred to a second container. It took me three batches in my 11 cup food processor. (See note 2)
- Mix in spinach.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
Also go to Sweetnicks where on Tuesday March 14 this soup will be posted for the weekly food blogging event! Every Tuesday, food bloggers who made a recipe that includes an ARF (Antioxidant Rich Food), fruit, veggie or any combination of the three can be included in Sweetnicks’ ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday evening round-up.
- I simply cooked my spinach by placing it in a bowl, drizzling it with a little water, covering the bowl with saran wrap, and putting it in the microwave for 1.5 minutes. If you do not have a microwave, then just sauté it with some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Avoid using frozen spinach because it tends to be chopped and will look messy in your beautiful soup.
- Don’t have a food processor? Then just skip this step. The soup will also be great without being pureed. Note that if you do want to puree it, you really do need a food processor. I think it is the only tool that will appropriately puree the pancetta (though I could be underestimating the power of a blender?).