Now that the holidays are over, I’m thinking about foods that’ll warm up my soul in January, February and March. Here’s an easy but healthy comfort food that has stayed with me since my youth in Italy – Cannellini Bean Soup (BTW, Cannellini beans are white and elongated, as opposed to smaller, rounder beans).

After the beans are cooked, just add olive oil, green onions, tomatoes and oregano, to taste. Served with fresh bread, wine and a fireplace, you’ll stay cozy all night.

Prep time: Soak beans overnight plus 1-1/2 hours cooking time
Makes: 5 cups cooked beans
Serves: 3 to 4

2 cups dry, uncooked Cannellini beans (one cup of dry beans will yield 2-1/2 cups cooked beans)
1 white or yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
2 bay leaves (optional)
extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
3 to 4 green onions, ends and dark green stems cut and discarded
1 to 2 tomatoes (any variety)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (this can be substituted with 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
French or Italian bread (for serving with beans)

Soak and Cook the Beans:

1. The night before serving the beans, place 2 cups uncooked Cannellini beans in a 3 to 4-quart porcelain or metal bowl on a countertop; cover with cold water.

2. Make sure the water level is one inch above beans; cover the bowl and let beans soak overnight.

3. The next day, drain the beans, discarding the water.

4. Place soaked beans in a 4 to 6-quart sauce pot; add cold water (make sure the water level is two inches above the beans).

5. Add onion and bay leaves to the beans.

6. Bring the beans to a boil.

7. When beans come to a boil, set heat on medium to medium-high.

8. Cook the beans for approximately one hour.

9. After one hour, taste a bean to check doneness. If needed, cook the beans for 20 to 30 more minutes, checking their doneness every 10 minutes.

10. By checking doneness every 10 minutes, the beans will not overcook or break apart.

Prepare Garnish for Beans:

1. Meanwhile, cut the green onions into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside in a glass or porcelain bowl.

2. Remove stems from tomatoes; cut each tomato in half.

3. Remove and discard pulp and seeds from each tomato-half; cut the flesh into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside in a glass or porcelain bowl.

4. If using fresh oregano, remove leaves from stems. Discard stems and finely chop the leaves.

5. Set the chopped oregano leaves aside in a small bowl.

6. When the beans are cooked but still hold their shape, remove and discard the onion and bay leaves.

7. Add salt and black pepper to the beans (to taste).

8. Set the garnish dishes, crushed red pepper flakes and the bread on table.

9. Serve Cannellini Bean Soup in individual bowls.

10. Ask each guest to garnish their own beans.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon (reds); chilled Chardonnay (white).
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real