White Bean Parmesan Soup

8 cups chicken stock or broth
1 lb dry cannellini beans,
 soaked overnight and drained
8 oz Parmesan, hard rinds
cut off and reserved, the rest
grated for serving
1 cup wheat berries
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped, fronds roughly chopped and reserved
3 celery stalks, sliced ½-inch thick
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp red-pepper flakes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
½ cup dry white wine
Parsley leaves, chopped
Juice of 1 large lemon
Kosher salt and black pepper

Step 1
Put the soaked, drained beans in a 5- to 8-quart slow cooker, and season them generously with salt and pepper. Add the reserved Parmesan rinds and the wheat berries.

Step 2
Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season generously with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the fennel is softened, and the onion is lightly browned, about 5 more minutes. Add the celery and garlic, and cook, stirring, until just softened, about 1 minute. Add the fennel seeds and red pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until combined and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rosemary and the wine and let the wine bubble until the pan is almost dry, about 2 minutes.

Step 3
Scrape the mixture from the skillet into the slow cooker. Add the stock, and season it: Add ½ tsp of salt, if you are using low-sodium broth, or 1 tsp of salt, if using homemade unsalted stock. (Do not add salt now if you are using fully salted broth.) Stir to combine, and cook on low until the wheat berries are tender and the beans are creamy, about 8 to 10 hours.

Step 4
Before serving, remove and discard the rosemary sprigs. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice (a quarter of a lemon at a time, then taste), and reserved fennel fronds. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve in bowls topped generously with grated Parmesan. CS

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