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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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