Italian Onion and Bean Soup with Parmesan Toast

Italian Onion and Bean Soup with Parmesan Toast

Tender cannellini beans, just-wilted fresh arugula leaves, and good white and red wines add flavor, color and depth to this Italian-style baked onion soup topped with crusty bread and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Not only delicious and a nice impression on your guests, this "minestra di cipolle e fagioli in crosta" is also very easy to make. It's also my entry for this month's onion-family themed No Croutons Required hosted by my wonderful friend Jacqueline.

If you have a rind left over from grating the Parmesan cheese, add it during the simmering stage of the soup. This or the rind of any other hard aged cheese lends a wonderful depth and base to the stock of any savory bean or vegetable soup, and they can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.

This recipe is loosely adapted from Marlena de Blasi's A Taste of Southern Italy — a unique and attractive collection of authentic dishes that are unfortunately almost uniformly non-vegetarian. But there's nothing wrong with a vegetarian using a little imagination to transform a salt-pork soup like de Blasi's original into a meatless delight.

Italian Onion and Bean Soup with Parmesan ToastItalian Onion and Bean Soup with Parmesan Toast
(Minestra di Cipolle e Fagioli in Crosta)
Recipe by
Adapted from A Taste of Southern Italy: Delicious Recipes and a Dash of Culture
Cuisine: Italian
Published on April 19, 2010

Attractive and elegant soup of tender cannellini beans, caramelized sweet onions and just-wilted arugula leaves simmered with wine and served with broiled crusty bread and fresh grated Parmesan cheese

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Beans (Fagioli):
  • 1/2 cup dried cannellini (white kidney) beans
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dried whole red chili
Soup (Minestra):
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb (450 g) Vidalia or sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup fresh arugula leaves, torn or shredded
Toast (Crosta):
  • 4 1/2-inch slices of crusty bread
  • 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • Rinse the beans and soak for 8 hours or overnight covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added.

  • Drain and rinse the beans, and transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with the vegetable stock, bay leaf and dried red chili. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are soft. Discard the chili. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid and bay leaf, and set aside.

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large cast-iron skillet or stove-top safe casserole. When hot, add the onions and garlic and toss until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat a little and sprinkle on the sea salt and brown sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden-brown and slightly caramelized, about 30 minutes.

  • Pour in the white wine and 2 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid from the beans. Add the bay leaf, and bring to a simmer. If you have a Parmesan rind, add this to the soup as well. Cook for 20 minutes. Now add the beans and red wine, and simmer gently for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf and Parmesan rind if using.

  • Pre-heat the oven broiler. Toss the arugula leaves into the soup. Lay slices of bread over the soup, sprinkle the bread with Parmesan cheese, and drizzle olive oil over the bread and cheese. Generously dust the bread and soup with plenty of fresh ground black pepper.

  • Place the skillet or casserole under the broiler to toast the bread and melt the cheese. Carry hot to the table and ladle soup and bread into warm bowls.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Other Italian-style soups you may enjoy:
Tuscan-Style Pinto Bean Soup with Kale
Cannellini Bean Soup with Fontina Gremolata
Tuscan Bean Soup with Fresh Rosemary
White Cabbage and Bean Minestrone


Johanna GGG said...

looks lovely - and I am interested to see red and white wine in the soup - seems quite unusual - now I am wondering if this was the recipe or if you were using up the dregs :-)

Lisa Turner said...

I never waste wine :)

The Food Hunter said...

This soup is calling my name.

dining room table said...

I like the Italian feel in this post! I love to make the soup!

italian kitchen decor said...

Thank you so much for sharing Recipe.