Posted by: Josey | January 16, 2009

Flashback to Northern Italy: Josey’s (Inexpensive! Healthy!) White Bean Soup Recipe

One of the best meals I’ve ever eaten was at a tiny restaurant in a fishing village of Le Cinque Terre in Northern Italy, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. There were no prices listed on the menu, but I was so taken aback by the view… and so clueless… that I ordered without remembering to ask. (Of course, even had I wanted to ask, I would have had trouble given that I don’t speak Italian—yet: Learning is one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2009.) Once I realized my error, I made a very conscious decision to just enjoy my meal. After all, I’d been backpacking for weeks eating, for the most part, only granola bars with a side of rice.

Small course after small course, it was a meal I’ll never forget. Not only was each dish delicious, but I remember feeling incredibly grown up, having ducked away from the group of fellow college students I’d befriended to dine alone in this spectacular setting.

One course consisted of a dish of white cannellini beans with olive oil and spices. It was so simple. How could it possibly taste so good? I’ve been incorporating the little legumes into my cooking ever since.

When I’ve cooked in the past, I’ve had the tendency to rebel against recipes: As good as I’m sure this would be as written, you know what would be good in it? RAISINS. Yeah. But not anymore. Another one of my New Year’s resolutions is to follow recipes more closely or, at the very least, to make note of my improvements. That way I’ll never again have the issue of Boy, that was delicious. If only I could recreate it. So here is the recipe for the white bean soup I have simmering right this very second:

Josey’s (Inexpensive! Healthy!) White Bean Soup Recipe

4 15-ounce cans white cannellini beans
1 can 14.5-ounce College Inn light and fat-free chicken broth
1 8-ounce can Goya tomato sauce
(It says “Spanish style.” Let’s pretend it says “Mediterranean style.”)
1 cup pinot grigio
(Also, drink some.)
2 cloves freshly peeled garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 handfuls fresh spinach, pulled apart by hand
1 large onion, diced
(I don’t know what kind it was, but cutting it really burned my eyes.)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 dash thyme
1 dash salt
1 dash pepper
1 dash garlic powder

Simmer on a low flame for 45 minutes, and add salt to taste. You’ll be amazed at how creamy this healthy, no-cream soup becomes. And one heaping bowl makes for a complete, hearty meal—teeming with protein, thanks to the white beans; lycopene, thanks to the tomato sauce; and vitamins, thanks to the green vegetables. Optional: To make unhealthy (mmmm), sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve with Italian pane (that’s “bread” to you and me).

Bon apetit! …I mean, buon appetito!


Oh, and in case you’re curious: My meal in Le Cinque Terre cost the equivalent of $28USD, including a glass of Pinot Grigio and gratuity (a total that, at the time, made me hyperventilate just a tad—but, of course, in retrospect, worth every last lire).


  1. As delicious as it looks.

  2. Mmm! Perfect on a freezing cold day like today!

  3. Does look quite good! I have made lentil, split pea and cabbage soup the last few days to deal with this frozen wasteland called Siberia…..I mean Chicago

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