Frigid temperatures got you trapped indoors? Try this hearty, vegetarian white bean stew and you’ll instantly be transported to a cozy Tuscan villa. It’s just a handful of ingredients, and you probably have most of them on hand already, but the flavor is big.
I might have sold you on stew, but the crouton at the bottom of the bowl is the real star of the show. Sliced rustic bread gets sauteed in sage sprig-infused olive oil until golden and crisp. Cooking the bread in olive oil on the stovetop creates a restaurant-worthy sear and an excellent base for this cozy stew. Rub the crusty bread with a clove of garlic to add a pungent hit of flavor, like bruschetta but instead of stopping by for antipasti, you’re sticking around for dinner.
And because this is a one-pot wonder, use the same skillet to make the soup. Heat more olive oil and add a simple blend of aromatics: sliced garlic, carrots, and chopped sage. Add a dry white wine and let it reduce completely; this will give the stew a nice amount of acidity without tasting too winey. Rinse and drain a couple of cans of white beans and add along with some vegetable broth.
A note on vegetable broths: if you’re not using a simple homemade version, and you don’t already have a favorite, it’s worth it to test-drive a few brands. We’ve tasted several in the test kitchen, and they can range from thin and watery to thick and sweet. (I’m a fan of Imagine Vegetable Broth and Kitchen Basics Vegetable Stock.) You can also make a very flavorful stock by simmering onion, carrots, celery and a rind of Parmesan for about 30 minutes. (The Parmesan trick is one of my favorites -- it adds a rich flavor and savory depth that’s impossible to achieve with salt alone.)
Once everything has simmered together for 20 minutes or so, remove a ladle’s worth of white beans. Mash these and return them to the pot; these beans thicken up the broth and add a velvety texture. Part of the charm of this soup is its rich body -- it’s like a mash-up of stew and gravy. If you prefer a lighter broth, add more water to adjust the consistency. Stir in a combination of tender greens like baby kale, spinach, or Swiss chard, and cook until just tender. Ladle over your fancy bread and sit back and enjoy the winter wonderland outside.
Tune in every Sunday for a new Healthy Appetite video from Shira Bocar.
Watch Shira make this cozy, one-pot stew: