Cannellini Bean and Fennel Soup has a thick, rich-flavored broth that comes mostly from the cooking liquid of the beans. But what really makes the soup sing is the fennel flavor — silky sweet from the bulbs, aromatic and herbaceous from the chopped fronds. I love the flavor of fennel! Fennel—both the fresh bulbs and the dried seeds—is under-appreciated for the savory-sweet, subtle anise flavor it adds. Paired with cannellini beans to form the base of this hearty, speedy soup, fennel adds another layer of flavor to the mild tasting beans.
The soup is packed with beans, and they’re so good for you! All that cholesterol-lowering fiber. Cannellini beans are the largest of the “white bean” group and because of their traditional kidney shape, they can also be referred to as “White Kidney Beans.” I like the size and texture of cannellini beans. They are usually “meatier” than Navy or Great Northern beans and are typically used in Italian dishes. Using canned beans is an easy way to make a rich, thick, and creamy soup without a drop of cream.
I like to add some Italian sausage to the soup. Since Italian sausage is made with fennel seed, it is very complementary to the soup. The soup is quite tasty on its own, so although the sausage is additive, it is definitely optional. A drizzle of robust extra virgin olive oil, and some herbaceous fennel fronds, are the perfect finish to this really delicious soup!
Cannellini Bean and Fennel Soup
- 8 ounces Italian sausage (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (if you do not use sausage)
- 1½ cups diced leeks or 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 2 cups diced fennel bulb (reserve fennel fronds for garnish)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed or ground in a spice grinder
- 4 cloves chopped garlic
- 4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- ½ serrano or small jalapeno pepper, remove seeds and membranes and finely chop (optional)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (more if you prefer a more brothy soup)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves. chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh sage. chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves. chopped
- 3 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, undrained
- Black pepper to taste
- Taste before adding any additional salt (both the beans and the stock are already salted)
- Olive oil for serving (optional)
- If you are adding sausage, sauté it first in your soup pot. Remove all but two tablespoons of fat from the pot. If you aren’t using sausage, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the soup pot.
- Add the leeks, fennel bulb, garlic, carrots, celery, and serrano pepper to the pot and cook over medium heat until softened, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add the stock, herbs, and 2 cans (undrained) of the beans. Mash or puree the other can of beans and add to the pot. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through.
- Season to taste with black pepper and salt.
- Garnish with reserved fennel fronds. A drizzle of a robust extra virgin olive oil which complements the sweetness of the fennel and the starchy component of the beans is the perfect finishing touch.