Ham and Bean Soup
If you’re lucky enough to have a leftover ham bone from Easter with some meat on it, this is one delicious way to use it. A lot of people like to make split pea soup with ham bones, but I’ve never been a fan, preferring fresh pea soup instead. However, the way I use my ham bone is to make a bean soup, using my favorite beans from Rancho Gordo. I buy them at my local health food store, but if you can’t find them where you live, search for them online. They’re worth the hunt. They are very tender and creamy after they’ve cooked for a couple of hours and have a very thin skin. They’re named after Marcella Hazan, the doyen of Italian cooking, who struck up an online conversation with the owner of Rancho Gordo. When she told him that the sorana variety of cannellini bean was her favorite and the one she missed the most, Rancho Gordo’s owner sleuthed out the seed for the bean and grew it. However, she died just as the first harvest was taking place, and Marcella never got to try them. After contacting Marcella’s widower, Victor, Rancho Gordo’s owner decided to name the bean in Marcella’s honor. Of course you could make this recipe with any cannellini bean, but these are the best I’ve ever tried, so why bother using any other?
They don’t need to pre-soak, just let all the ingredients come to a boil, then lower to a simmer (with the lid askew). After two to two and a half-hours, (don’t stir too often or too vigorously or you’ll crush the beans) the beans will be tender and the meat will have fallen off the bone. Remove the bone from the pot, and if you like, puree a bit of the soup, just to give a little more creaminess to the mix. Salt the soup near the end of the cooking. If you salt too early, it will take longer for the beans to soften.
By the way, if you’re wondering what that Italian saying means, written in blue across the bowl in the top picture, it’s a saying my mother used to say to us when we were growing up and it translates to: “Either eat this soup or jump out the window.”
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- 1 ham bone
- ¼ cup minced onion
- 2 carrots, diced finely
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bag Rancho Gordo Marcella beans (or 2 cups dried cannellini beans)
- 6 cups water (or more if soup gets too thick)
- salt, pepper
- parmesan cheese rind
- Sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil until softened.
- Place the ham bone into the pot, and add the water, the beans and the parmesan cheese rind.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the water temperature to a simmer.
- Cook for about two hours, then add the salt and pepper to taste.
- If you add the salt early in the process, it delays the softening of the beans.
- After 2½-3 hours, the beans should be soft.
- Add more water if it's too thick.
- Optional: I like to puree a small amount of the beans when they are fully cooked, to make a creamier soup.
- Serve in warm bowls, sprinkled with a little chopped parsley,