Originally when I picked up a $1.30 bag of dried cannellini beans a vegetarian dish was the furthest thing from my mind. I had visions of half the bag becoming Creole white beans and rice simmered with a ham hock, andouille sausage, and ham. The other half would become a Tuscan style bean soup with Italian sausage and chicken broth. I ran the recipes by my wife and she promptly advised me that since starting this site we have been eating a lot more meat than usual. I thought OK, no big deal, I’ll make a vegetarian version of both. I haven’t figured out the Creole beans and rice yet but what follows was an impromptu meeting of myself, a bag of dried beans, and a vegetable drawer.
Cooks Notes: There are several options (in my opinion) of using beans in this dish. I used a pressure cooker which I love. If you don’t have one you need to buy one. Don’t be afraid, the new ones are fool-proof and not dangerous like some of the older models. These beans were done in 16 minutes in the pressure cooker. If I had made them on the stove top they would have taken an hour or more not counting the soup simmer time. Canned beans are always an option to make life a bit easier. I however threw this dish together and have not tried it with canned beans. I’m sure it will be great but now you have my disclaimer. Also for the budget minded people I used 65 cents worth of beans in this dish and it probably makes around 6 to 8 servings. Dried beans are inexpensive!
8 ounces of dried cannellini beans soaked overnight (or 2 15oz cans rinsed and drained)
2 onions one diced one cut in half
4 cloves of garlic 2 diced or pressed and 2 peeled and left whole
3 large celery stalks 2 diced and 1 quartered
2 carrots diced
1/4 cup of fresh fennel bulb (white part only)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I used 1/2 wife said a bit too spicy! I liked it.)
1 quart dark vegetable broth (6 cups if using canned beans)
1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes drained (I like Dei Fratteli)
3 large handfuls of kale about 4 to 5 cups chopped
6 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil chopped
Beans pressure cooker: Place soaked beans, the halved onion, 2 whole garlic cloves, and the quartered celery stalk into the pressure cooker. Cook following the directions that came with your model. Mine said 3 1/2 cups water. Cook under high pressure until done 12 to 16 minutes. Remove vegetables and discard. Set beans and cooking liquid aside.
Beans slow simmer method: Place soaked beans in a dutch oven and cover with about 2 inches of water. Add the above listed vegetables and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs or until soft adding water if necessary. Remove vegetables and discard. Set aside the beans and their cooking water.
Canned beans: Drain, rinse, and set aside along with the 2 extra cups of vegetable broth.
Directions for putting it all together: Place 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot. Saute the onion, carrots, celery, and fennel bulb for about 5 minutes or until partially soft. Add the garlic and saute for 1 to 2 minutes more. Add drained tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper. Simmer for about 5 more minutes to thicken the tomato liquid. Add the beans and broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chopped kale, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the parsley and simmer 10 more minutes or until the kale is soft. Add the basil and stir. Serve and enjoy.