1.At least 8 hours before, or the night before you make the soup, place the beans in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover the beans by 5cm (2 inches0. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain the beans, rinse under cold running water, and drain again. Set aside.
2. In a large saucepan or casserole (Dutch oven) heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat, add the pancetta, and sauté for 8-10 minutes, until browned. Add the leeks, onions, carrots, celery, garlic and thyme and cook over medium-low for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the beans, the chicken stock, bay leaves, 1 tbsp sea salt, and 1 tsp freshly ground pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 90 minutes or until the beans are tender. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.
4. Discard the bay leaves, cover the pot, and allow the soup to sit off the heat for 15 minutes. If the soup is too thick, add more stock.
5. Reheat slowly, ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and freshly parsley, drizzle with olive oil and serve hot.
1.First, if you’re using canned beans you’ll need 180g (3 cups) white cannellini beans, drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Place 1/3 (1 cup) beans and 1/2 (1/2 cup) liquid into a food processor and puree. When ready to add the beans in the recipe, stir in the puree and add the remaining drained beans (discard the remaining liquid).
2. Second, initially use only 1 1/2lts (6 cups) chicken stock.
3. Third, simmer the soup for 45 minutes, rather than 90 minutes.
4. When reheating the following day, add some filtered water and seasoning to taste. To freshen up the soup you could add some small pasta like orzo and/or frozen spinach.
5. Don’t worry too much about exact quantities, we’re cooking rather than baking. If you don’t have some of the ingredients, substitute. For example, if you don’t have pancetta, use bacon. Or, for a spicier treat, use chorizo. You could substitute the beans with another type or even chickpeas or lentils.
6. I often chuck in a parmesan cheese rind from my cache in the freezer while making the soup for some extra umami flavour.