During the summer months, I so enjoy the lighter, fresher tastes of fresh basil, vine-ripened tomatoes, and crunchy cucumbers. But when the weather turns cooler, I am ready for something not only more substantial (stews, beef, hearty casseroles), but for the deeper, darker…. different fall/winter flavors. And, what do you know, what’s in season right now just seems right to eat.
I can get freshly harvested garlic in the stores and fresh rosemary can still be found out in my garden. The two combined make a marriage of wonderful flavor. They go perfectly with so many dishes that just sound right for a chilly night.
This soup is a very simple, basic bean soup using techniques gleaned from authentic Italian cookbooks. I have been learning to love the simplistic beauty of dishes like this. They are not labor intensive, use good quality ingredients, and they use those ingredients well. Dishes like this also help my budget as they are very frugal. Like I mentioned in a post recently, it’s peasant food, but I hardly feel deprived.
Don’t let the anchovies deter you. For a vegetarian/vegan option, leave it out, but for the rest of you, it really does add a subtle depth to the dish that will be missed if you leave it out. It doesn’t add a fishy taste, just more flavor. This is one of the tips I have learned from some of my reading that has really improved my cooking.
One more tip, since you won’t use all of the anchovies in a jar with one recipe, I like to freeze the leftovers. They keep longer this way, and only take a few minutes to defrost enough to use, if left by the warm stove.
Rosemary Garlic Italian Bean Pot
Feel free to use what type of beans you prefer. There is no fast rule. Using just white beans would be beautiful and delicious as well. Some of the beans aren’t exactly Italian, but I understand that they are good substitutes for some of the Italian beans that aren’t widely available in the United States.
1 cup of pinto beans
1/2 cup of small red beans
1/2 cup of kidney beans
1/2 cup of small white beans
1-2 stems of rosemary, washed
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, smashed, skin on
2 tablespoons of olive oil
8 cups of water
Three large garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped, or add more rosemary.
3 anchovy fillets, chopped roughly (you could use more, if desired)
1/4-1/2 cup of olive oil (the olive adds richness. Add to taste and budget preference)
1-The night before, combine all of the beans in a large bowl, and cover with plenty of warm water. Cover and let soak overnight.
2-The next day, drain and rinse your beans. Place in large pot with the ingredients listed under part two. The rosemary, garlic and bay leaves, add a more subtle flavor to the beans as they cook. The oil gives the beans a good texture. Bring to a boil, and simmer at a very low simmer until all the beans are soft. It took me about one and a half hours.
3-Once the beans are soft, fish out the rosemary stems, garlic and bay leaves. Heat the olive oil, and add the chopped anchovy fillets. Using a wooden spoon to smash and chop at the anchovies until they start to disintegrate into the oil. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for about a minute making sure to keep stirring and not letting the garlic brown (it will make it bitter). While the former rosemary, garlic and bay leaf adds a subtle flavor that permeate the beans more, this step adds a brighter, stronger flavor.
4-Taste test, and salt and pepper as needed. I find that bean soups such as this are actually better served slightly cooled. You can’t taste the flavors as well when it is piping hot. Let cool slightly and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or similar cheese, if desired.