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Chef’s Corner: A Hearty Bean Soup, Tuscan Style

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The pancetta, smoky ham and herbs bring a taste of Italy to this hearty white bean soup.  The sun-dried tomatoes add color and a lively acidity. This mellow, nourishing soup recipe is from personal chef Sarah Penrod, owner of the local Chef for Life.

Tuscan Bean Soup
1 ounce pancetta OR 1 slice bacon, cut in small dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces smoked ham (1 thick slice from the deli), cut into small dice
¼ cup diced onions (cut in small dice)
¼ cup diced carrots (cut in small dice)
¼ cup diced celery (cut in small dice)
¼ cup thinly sliced leek
4 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
1 bay leaf
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon leaf thyme
1 tablespoon chopped basil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¾ pound dry white beans, cooked according to package directions OR 2 3/4 cups cooked beans
40 ounces chicken stock
¼ cup minced sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup tomatoes, crushed, with juice
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Place the pancetta or bacon in a heavy saucepan over medium heat with olive oil blend. Render fat, but do not cook meat until crisp. Add onions, carrots, celery and leek and sauté until almost tender.

Add roasted garlic, bay leaf, pinch red pepper, thyme, basil, oregano, cooked beans and stock. Stir ingredients together gently. Bring just to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer over low heat until beans are very tender.

Add sun-dried tomatoes and crushed tomatoes and simmer another 15 minutes. Using a hand blender, purée approximately ¼ of the soup.   (Or, transfer 1 cup of soup to regular blender, blend, then pour purée back into pot.)  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From Sarah Penrod, chef, Chef for Life

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