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white bean soup & variations

White Bean and Garlic Soup with Zucchini and Shrimp

White Bean and Garlic Soup with Zucchini and Shrimp

The other day I was watching Lidia Bastianich on her PBS cooking show and she made a white bean & garlic soup with zucchini & shrimp. It looked delicious so I looked up the recipe on her website, Lidia's Italy, which happens to be featured on Gourmet File's Italian recipe page. I made the soup (shown here) and it was, in fact, delicious.

The recipe is simple: white beans, a lot of garlic, a little peperoncino (hot red pepper flakes), bay leaves, water and salt. It's flavorful, cheap, healthy, and made from ingredients you probably already have on hand.

The wonderful thing about soup is that you can start with a master recipe and improvise on that concept according to your preferences and the ingredients you have.

Start with the master recipe:

Click here for the recipe for Lidia's Garlicky White Bean Soup. This recipe makes 10 servings, but can be halved easily if you don't want so much soup. Alternatively you could make the full recipe and use some of the soup today. Then you can freeze the rest of the soup in plastic containers or zip-lock bags for another day.

To make the soup with zucchini & shrimp:

Make the master soup recipe (you could do this well in advance). Then add some thinly sliced zucchini and uncooked shrimp directly into the hot soup. Cook for a few minutes until the zucchini is tender and the shrimp are just cooked through. Depending on the thickness of your zucchini slices and the size of your shrimp, you might want to add either the zucchini or the shrimp first to ensure each is cooked properly.

Other variations on the master soup recipe:

- Make the soup then add some chopped escarole or other leafy greens to the hot soup. Simmer until the greens are tender.

- First make the soup. Then saute or roast some tiny tomatoes in olive oil (cherry or grape tomatoes) and add these to the soup at the end. Sprinkle the bowls of soup with a little chopped parsley.

- Make the soup. Then add some already cooked little pieces of sausage (or ham or pancetta) to the soup. Or you could chop up some prosciutto and add this to the soup.

- Transform the soup into a Pasta e Fagiole (pasta & bean soup). To do this, when you are making the sofrito in the master recipe, add some minced carrots & celery into the sofrito and saute until tender. When the soup is done, add some cooked small pasta (tiny pasta shells, for example) to the hot soup just before serving. Serve the soup with a little grated Parmigiano cheese on top.

- Make the master soup recipe but substitute a sprig or two of rosemary for the bay leaves when cooking the beans.

- Puree the soup in a blender or food processer. Or you could puree some of the soup and then put it back into the soup pot for a thicker but still chunky soup.

The possibilities are endless. I'm sure you will come up with your own wonderful variations on this simple soup.

Stay warm and eat soup!