A really big, hearty and healthy soup that will fill your family right up at dinnertime.
Bean soups are a mainstay in Tuscan cooking, often a way to use up leftover or ageing vegetables. It's a filling, easy dinner, as well as being thrifty. You can change up the ingredients here to suit pretty much whatever you have available. Any kind of beans will work (as long as they're not in tomato sauce), and you can add in courgettes or parsnips with the carrots, or stir in some green leafy veg like kale or spinach at the end. Spooning over some pesto, whether from a jar or your own homemade version, is a brilliant way to add a burst of extra fresh flavour to tomato-based soups. We've marked this recipe as vegetarian, but double-check the pesto you use is veggie-friendly, as many contain Parmesan. Hemp seed is rich in linoleic acid, which has been shown to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. If you don't have it, use an alternative oil.
- 2 tbsp hemp seed oil (eg Good Oil Mild and Light)
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 fat clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 sticks celery, chopped
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 400g can of mixed beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tbsp sundried tomato paste
- 600ml well-flavoured vegetable stock
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh green pesto to serve
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan and sauté the onion for about 5 mins or until soft. Stir in the garlic, carrot, celery and continue to cook for a further 5 mins.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, stock and seasoning. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 mins or until the vegetables are soft.
- Place half of the vegetable mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth, then return to the pan. Add the beans, and simmer for a further 10 mins or until the beans have been heated through.
- Spoon into bowl and garnish with a spoonful of fresh pesto.
Top tip for making Tuscan bean soup
To make fresh pesto, place 1 peeled clove of garlic, 2 tbsp of pine nuts, 50g freshly grated Parmesan or vegetarian hard cheese and 30g basil in a blender and process until mixed. While the machine is still running drizzle in enough hemp seed oil to make a sauce to the thickness you require.
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