Fennel, Tomato and White Bean Soup

by | Feb 13, 2009

The fennel at the farmers market has been particularly beautiful lately. I bought one last week without having a real plan of what to do with it. When Sunday night rolled around and I realized I had not made my lunch soup yet, this recipe from Splendid Soups seemed like the way to go.

I made a few modifications to suit my needs. First, my corner store didn’t have any large white beans dry (I like to avoid canned beans–it’s a taste thing), so I used their small ones. They turned out well, and cooked a lot faster than the big kind. Also, this time of year I can’t help but put Meyer lemon juice in everything. It’s like sugar only better.

One other thing is that this recipe calls for 18 garlic cloves (that’s not a typo), which is essentially an entire bulb. I was taken aback by the number but decided to just follow the instructions. In retrospect it was a little too garlicy for me (stank up the fridge). Next time I might use 10-12 and see how that works. Up to you.

Fennel, Tomato and White Bean Soup

(5 large servings or 8 first course)


  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 medium-sized sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 10-18 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 qt chicken broth
  • 1 bouquet garni (e.g. 2 sprigs marjoram, 1 sprig rosemary , several sprigs parsley, tied with string)
  • 1 cup white beans, cooked until tender (1 can cannellini beans okay)
  • 0.25 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Juice of 0.5 Meyer lemon
  • Excellent olive oil
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper
  • Crusty bread or quinoa

If you are using dry beans and cooking them in a pressure cooker, you can put them on the stove first and they will be ready by the time this recipe calls for them. I soaked small white beans 1 hour before putting them in the pressure cooker 15 minutes. It takes another 10 minutes or so for the pressure cooker to re-pressurize.

Rinse and remove a few handfuls of the fuzzy greens from the fennel, coarsely chop and set aside. Cut fennel in half longways, cut off bottom, remove core and discard. Lay fennel cut side down, cut in half one more time longways and thinly slice.

Combine fennel, onion, garlic, broth and bouquet garni in 4 qt pot. Gently simmer about 15 min, until vegetables soften. Add tomatoes and simmer another 10 minutes.

Remove bouquet garni. Add beans and 0.5 cup of their cooking liquid. If using can beans, rinse them and do not add liquid. You can use more broth or water if you want your soup thinner. Add parsley, reserved fennel leaves and lemon juice. Adjust salt.

When serving, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Fresh baked country bread is amazing with this recipe, but 0.25 cup of quinoa at the bottom of your bowl is a great alternative.

Let me know how it turns out!

UPDATE: One reader had a bad experience with the rosemary in this recipe. You might consider leaving it out or trying a different herb. Also, saffron is a nice addition to this recipe.

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14 Responses to “Fennel, Tomato and White Bean Soup”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mmmm! I could go for some of that on this cold, west-coast stormy day!!!!

  2. catherinecarey says:

    I printed out the recipe and linked to it in my blog. You might like fennel in a quiche. catherinecarey.wordpress.comCatherine

  3. doug says:

    Did you take that photo? It looks awesome… I think I need to go to lunch before I lick my screen.

  4. Darya Pino says:

    @dougI did! Eating the rest of it for lunch right now ;p

  5. Dinneen-Eat Without Guilt says:

    I love fennel and white beans – what a great combo! Looks soooo good & can't wait to try it! Hmm, maybe will ask hubby to make it for me on Valentine's Day 🙂

  6. Mike says:

    Kinda looks like Pico de Gallo, which is one of my favorite things. Would cilantro be a good addition to this recipe?

  7. Matt Shook says:

    Oh man, soup sounds so good right now. (It’s a bitter cold night up here.) I wish I had this in my fridge right now…Wha, wait, what? 18 cloves!?! I am a certified garlic freak, but I have never ever used 18 cloves in a recipe. Hopefully your still a fan of garlic after this one…I like the idea of adding a splash of quinoa…it’s like adding barley, but far better.

  8. Car Blog says:

    Tooo much garlic in there, i aint a garlic fan so ill give this a pass.

  9. Darya Pino says:

    @DinneenIt’s really a great soup and also pairs well with seafood. Muscles are a great addition!—–@MikeThe recipe I posted has a ton of herbs with strong Italian flavor. Cilantro could be good too, but you might want to tone down the rosemary first :)—–@MattThe reason I went ahead with the recipe was because the garlic is added whole, not minced. I crushed mine a bit to get the skins off, but they were still intact. It wasn’t so bad.—–@Car BlogYou could leave the garlic out or just add a little. These soup recipes are easy to modify.

  10. Karin says:

    So you actually put the Quinoa in the soup? My gut reaction was that the quinoa would get oversaturated and too soggy- its not a problem? This soups looks delish though, reminds me of some something spanish/mexican!!

  11. Staci Morris says:

    I made it and failed. The rosemary leaves came off and I couldn’t fish them out, so it all tasted too bitter. I only put in 12 garlic, and ended up not leaving them in b/c I was afraid I would mistake one one for a large white bean. Oh well. The tagine I made last week worked out much better, and the left overs were delish.

  12. Darya Pino says:

    @StaciOh bummer!! I have never had that happen to my rosemary. Personally I thought the recipe could do without the rosemary anyway, so the rest of you might consider leaving it out.

  13. Sandra says:

    just made this tonight- It was great. I did make some adaptations- the most notable being the addition of a rind of parmesan while the soup was simmering. It added great dimension.

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