Back when I was a baby recipe developer working at the Food52 test kitchen, I was tasked with making Marcella Hazan’s White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley, a recipe from her cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, for a photo shoot. Armed with the confidence of a recent culinary school grad and ready to impress, I tightened my apron and made the soup. 15 minutes later I was done. Wait, that’s it? I must have missed a step…
I hadn’t missed anything. It has only five ingredients: olive oil, garlic, beans, broth, and parsley. The soup simmers for just 10 minutes. Though it sounds too easy to be good, it tastes better than most bean soup recipes that ask for more ingredients and steps.
I’ve discovered many of my go-to recipes through work, and this soup is one of my favorites.
How I Make Marcella Hazan’s White Bean Soup
The recipe starts with a key step that cannot be skipped: Add half a cup of olive oil (don’t skimp!) and chopped garlic in a medium pot, cooking until the garlic is fragrant and tan. This only takes about a minute, but it infuses the oil with intense flavor and is the reason the soup can cook for such a short time and still tastes better than most recipes that take far longer.
Marcella calls for a teaspoon of chopped garlic, but as you can see in the image right below I am a garlic fiend—I use about a tablespoon of garlic (three large cloves) that I grate using a Microplane grater.
Stir in three 16-ounce cans of drained and rinsed white beans, like cannellini, Great Northern beans, or Navy beans. Beans you cook yourself (more on this below) would obviously taste better, but I never feel bad about using canned—it allows for spontaneity and ease that makes it lovable and so useful.
I skip salt when using canned beans, but do add a pinch for homemade, plus a few cracks of black pepper.
Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about five minutes. You’re giving the beans a chance to bask in the garlic oil.
Add a cup of chicken or beef broth, then stick an immersion blender right into the pot for three quick pulses, making sure the blade is fully immersed so that you don’t burn yourself with flying soup. (Marcella has you transfer 1/2 cup of beans into a food mill with the broth. Use that or a blender.) Some of the beans will become smooth, creating a half-creamy half-chunky soup. One ingredient, two textures.
Simmer for five more minutes, top with chopped parsley, and add more salt and pepper to taste. In almost no time—less than 15 minutes—you made full-flavored soup, warm and comforting.
Marcella said, “If one really loves beans, all one really wants in a bean soup is beans. Why bother with anything else?” This recipe delivers beans using smart, simple cooking techniques.
A White Bean Named After Marcella Hazan
Marcella passed away in 2013, but her legacy lives on through her cookbooks and recipes—and cannellini beans named after her: Marcella Bean.
Steve Sando, Founder and CEO of Rancho Gordo, grows the heirloom Italian beans as a tribute to her. It has a beautiful backstory that you can read here. You’ve been warned, it’s a tearjerker.
One year I bought every bean-lover in my life a pound of Marcella Beans for Christmas. To this day, I’m reminded by the recipients of the gift and how life-changing it was to taste truly great beans—for some, the first time ever.
BUY IT: Marcella Bean