Bringing Europe Home

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Spinach and White Bean Soup

My favorite wedding present is a cookbook.  It is called Grandmother Remembers—Family Recipes, and it is filled with handwritten recipes from my dear Nana.  I refer to it often.  Each time I open it, I give thanks for having this sweet woman in my life and for being Italian (at least by half).  This is her recipe for spinach and white bean soup, and it is one of the simplest, healthiest soups I know.  If I want to cook something at the beginning of the week that has some mileage to it, this is what I make.

WHAT IT IS

Like every good Italian grandmother, Nana could take a handful of ingredients and create a perfectly satisfying meal.  Since she lived on a rural country road and could not make frequent trips to the grocery store, Nana had to rely on what she had in the cupboard and the freezer. She came up with this spinach soup, and it goes a long way.  I make it often (it’s in my recipe Rolodex, so to speak), so now it’s one of my “specialties.”  This is a simple recipe, simply written, and these are her words.

Nana’s Simple Spinach Soup

  • 1 pkg frozen spinach
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 small onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • Olive oil or salad oil
  • Salt and pepper

Slightly brown onion and celery.  Add chopped carrots and enough water to cover.  When the carrots are almost cooked, add spinach and beans.  I do not strain the beans.  Let all simmer together for ½ hour or so; add oil, 1 or 2 tablespoons salt and pepper.

She put the following notes at the bottom of her recipe: *This makes a lot.  I always freeze one or two containers for another time.  *Tastes better the next day *Red beans can be added if you like, but I would strain those *(Fresh spinach even better) *Your dad likes this soup.

BRING IT HOME

I am good at taking a simple thing and making it complicated.  I have managed to complicate even this soup.  Inspired by Nana’s note (fresh spinach even better!), I started making this with fresh spinach.  Then, I thought, maybe…fresh beans even better…!  They’re not really that fresh (that’s another recipe), they’re dry, and I did decide to start with a 1 lb bag of dry cannellini beans.  When I cook for my family of six, I bulk up the recipe still more, and I have never yet had enough leftovers to freeze.  We go through it.  I start with the Costco 1 lb. box of organic baby spinach, and I use the whole thing in my soup. You can use less, of course, but I like a pot full ‘o greens.  This is what I do:

Robin’s Complicated Spinach Soup

  • One 1 lb bag cannellini beans
  • 1 medium/large onion (1 ½ cup)
  • 4 carrots (1 ½ – 2 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 4 stalks, greens and all)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Rinse and sort beans.  Follow package directions for soaking (I soak mine overnight in  6 cups cold water.)  After soaking, drain and rinse.  Return to pot.  Add 6 cups hot water and 1 tsp salt, simmer for about one hour, or until soft. (They don’t need to be falling apart soft; the beans will continue cooking when you add them to the soup).  This will make 6 cups of cooked beans.  Use two cups, plus some cooking liquid, per recipe.  Freeze the rest of the beans in 2 cup containers.  While beans are cooking, wash the spinach.

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Brown onions and celery.  Add carrots and enough water to cover (about 3 cups).   When carrots are getting soft (about 10 minutes), stir in spinach.  You can use ½ -1 lb fresh spinach (if it’s not baby spinach, chop it a little and pull off any super long stems).  At this point, you will have something that looks like a big pot of vitamins.  Add the 2 cups of cooked beans, and let it all simmer together for about another half hour, or more.  Add salt and pepper to taste and finish with a little more olive oil, if desired.

My family loves this with fresh Parmesan and/or homemade croutons.  My boys also enjoy it with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Served straight-up (and made with the dried beans or canned gluten-free beans), this is a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian recipe!  Enjoy!

6 Comments

  1. This soup is one of my trusted standby’s. I’ll have to try your version. Also want to add, I’ve made it with kale instead of spinach and bumped up the health factor

  2. This looks delicious!

    • Thank you. It really is! And it’s healthy and easy and makes a lot–what more could you want?!

  3. Gina

    This was perfect for a week night meal, as it’s wholesome, simple and warming. I substituted kale, since I didn’t have spinach and used canned beans with great success. Topped it with shredded cheddar (was out of Parm), which gave it a bit of richness. My 5th and 6th grader ate it, too. This soup is so versatile and family friendly.

    • I’m so glad that the recipe worked for you with the ingredients you had on hand, and that your children liked it, too!

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