It is now the end of May here in Trumbull, CT, and even though I have turned off my heat for the year, it is very chilly in my house, so I am going around in a sweater while wearing fur lined slippers. I feel a longing for bean soup because it is always warming and comforting, especially on a Sunday night when I want to make something that gives a lot for the little it takes to make it.
It is always nostalgic when I make this soup. Back when I was a new mom of three babies in a row, I didn’t really know how to cook and I lived in Atlanta, GA, far from my family in Mt. Vernon, NY. I had an Ada Boni cookbook that I scoured for Italian recipes that sounded like something my mom or granny would make. This recipe had a bacon, onion, celery base that I had seen my mother and grandmother use often for soups and sauces, so right away I trusted the recipe. I have never been sorry because the recipe has served me well for over 50 years. Made with cooked dried beans, the soup must be simmered for a long time, but if you use canned beans, it takes just a few minutes of cooking time – a very nice feature for working moms.
Three slices of center cut bacon, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic chopped or pressed
three inner stalks celery, leaves included, chopped fine
2 fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
1 quart warm water
2 cups cooked white beans (I use canned cannellini beans)
1 cup elbow macaroni or other small pasta
2 or more tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
2 frankfurters, cut up (optional)
Pour olive oil into a 2 qt heavy saucepan. When oil is shimmering, add the chopped bacon, onion, celery and garlic and stir around as the mixture browns slowly in the hot oil. Lower the heat to medium so garlic doesn’t burn and continue to brown mixture until vegetables become soft and bacon browns.
Add tomatoes if using. Stir them into the mixture and let them break down a bit. (I did not use them here.) Add beans, salt, pepper, and warm water. Cook 5 minutes. Add uncooked macaroni.
Bring the soup to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer and cook 8 minutes longer or until the pasta is cooked but not mushy. Add franks.
Ladle the soup into a large soup dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.